With up to 25 per cent of silage dry matter (DM) losses occurring during storage, farmers are being encouraged to focus on clamp consolidation and sealing to preserve better quality forage and reduce feed waste.
Dr Dave Davies, of Silage Solutions UK, says most storage losses are invisible and therefore often overlooked by farmers.
"However, the financial implications are high, with losses typically adding more than 25 per cent to the silage production cost,” he says.
“For example, with a 30 per cent dry matter [DM] loss, the real cost of production for every tonne of DM silage made is about £160 compared, to £120/t DM.
“On top of this, DM losses reduce silage quality, most notably the level of metabolisable energy. When the associated impact this has on milk production is considered, it equates to a further £30/t.
The good news is it is possible to significantly reduce DM losses at storage. Mr Davies says a recent on-farm pilot study by Alltech, which assessed storage losses on 34 farms, found within the best silage clamps, no visible DM losses were recorded.
However, he says even these clamps would have DM losses of more than 10 per cent.
“Producers should be aiming to achieve a target density of 750kg of fresh matter/cu.m, or 220-250kg DM/cu.m when rolling grass in the clamp.
“A high density can be achieved by layering forage in the clamp in layers no thicker than 15cm, and rolling each layer between loads.”
Dr Davies recommends using a side sheet, oxygen barrier film and top sheet to achieve an airtight seal.
“Sufficient top weight should then be applied to form a firm seal. The junction between the wall, the top sheet and the ramp are often problem areas and require particular care.”