Growing up my father believed in driving the scenic route with little regard to his passengers, or their varying degrees of carsickness. Let’s travel back to our childhood. Your in your parents’ van on a hot, August evening. The AC is full blast, your dad is trying to pull in his favorite radio station on the winding road (all you hear is static), and your sister keeps complaining because she’s hungry! You’re gazing out the window hoping to find some peace. The field out your window showcases straight green windrows of hay. You crack your window and are blessed with a sweet aroma of grass and flowers (and dust). The farmer is at a stand still in his green tractor and baler, then out kicks out a perfectly round hay bale. As your father continues to drive (slowly mind you) you notice a mile down the road a line of white plastic wrapped hay bales that somewhat resembles a caterpillar.
“What’s up with that?”, you ask your dad, those look nothing like the hay bales you jumped on as a kid. Your dad simply answers, “those are silage bales wrapped in white plastic.”
That’s mildly helpful, but you still have more what, why, and hows that need to be answered…most importantly “can kids still jump on those?”.
So what is silage? Silage is a forage that is harvested at a higher moisture level then stored with no access to oxygen. The feed then ferments with the help of the microscopic organisms living within it.
What can be used to make silage? Any type of grass (fescue, alfalfa, oats…), field crops (corn, soybeans…)
How is silage made? First the grass or crop is cut and from there it all depends on how the silage is stored….
- If the silage is stored in a silo….the silage will be collected by a chopper and blown into a wagon. The wagon will deliver the silage to a silo, where it will be blown up. Once the silo is full anaerobic fermentation will begin and continue over the next several weeks.
- If the silage is stored in a pit…the silage will be collected by a chopper and blown into a wagon. The wagon will deliver the silage to a pit (a bunker built on the ground). The silage will be dumped into the pit, will be rolled on by a tractor to compact the feed and push out the air. It is then commonly covered with plastic or a tarp.
- If the silage is stored as baleage….the silage will be dried to 35%-45% moisture, it will then be raked and baled into large round bales. The bales are then tightly wrapped with a thin white plastic to cut off access to air.
Do cows like it better? Nutritionally speaking, baleage is commonly higher quality than dry hay because it can be baled earlier in the spring (when grass has more nutritional value) due to the shorter window needed between rains. In addition, the plastic wrap prevents spoilage of the hay as it protects it from the rain and uv radiation. With less spoilage, and younger more tender grass, baleage typically results in more palatable hay for the cows.
So what does silage at the Perry Farms look like?
Silage at Perry Farms is in the form of baleage. Alfalfa is grown, cut 4-5 times during the growing season, dried to 40% moisture,
baled into large round bales,
and wrapped in thin white plastic.
This will be fed to the cow/calf pairs, heifers, and bulls during the winter months when minimal grass is found on the ground. Most of the nutritional value of alfalfa is found in it’s leaves and by baling the alfalfa at the higher moisture level then wrapping it plastic more of the leaves are saved and preserved.
Until Next Time,