Dairy Pipeline: July 1995
Scott B. Carr
Extension Dairy Scientist, Forages
The practice of ensiling large, round bales offers some advantages not possible with other methods of forage preservation. The more notable advantages are lower overall fixed and operating expenses for one-man harvest and storage in a 24 hour harvest "window." The system is adaptable to changing feed requirements and is easily expanded without large investments. The system especially complements pasture-based cattle enterprises. In an article entitled "Baleage: Tips for Success," Dr. Lester Vough, Forage Extension Specialist at the University of Maryland, states that the simplicity and favorable costs are notable, but the technique is not fool-proof. Silage quality can vary from excellent to unfit for feeding. Reasons for the differences in quality have been linked to moisture levels in the baleage and to improper storage conditions. The optimum dry matter for making baleage is 40-50%. Storing bales above this range risks heating and molding. Storing bales too wet risks spoilage and poisoning from mycotoxins. Black plastic either for storage bags or as a cover for stacked bales tends to draw heat which can prevent fermentation. Bales wrapped with white plastic tend to be cooler with less entrapped oxygen--conditions needed for rapid fermentation. Even with white plastic, storage in exposed sunlight is undesirable, and storage in shaded areas with a northern exposure is preferred.