With the practice of stacking round bales on end becoming increasingly common in the UK, farmers are being warned about the impact this method has on on-farm safety and the silage itself.
Rhun Fychan, from Aberystwyth University, headed up a study into bale stacking and says while there are many cases of farmers stacking bales on end successfully, on-farm safety could be more easily compromised.
He says: “Although there are less than 10 per cent of farmers in the UK stacking bales in this way, it does concern me as I have seen whole stacks collapsing without warning.
“Round bales can often become misshaped, especially when young, high digestibility grass is ensiled. Bales stored conventionally slot into one another safely, but when stored on end, a whole stack can become dangerous.
“Stacking bales in the rain or when there is dew on their surface, often the case on many farms as it is a job left until the morning or when the weather turns, is also dangerous. These are more likely to slide and topple as bales do not bond together and easily slip.
“At feed-out, unstacking bales on end is also more difficult with movement and toppling of upper layers a lot more unpredictable.”
According to the study, stacking on end is popular in Ireland.
However, Mr Fychan points out in the majority of cases there, bales stored on end are in single layer.
In the UK, stacks are three, four and even five rows high.
He says “Stacking on end at this height is fine when storing hay and straw indoors, but silage or haylage can be a lot more unstable and
likely to collapse.
“There are suggestions this method results in less physical damaged to the bale-wrap, leading to less mould on bales, but there is no research which proves this.
“A study conducted by Teagasc, Ireland found significantly more mould on bales stored on end than those stored conventionally.
“The latter are usually handled by cradling from below, while on end bales have to be squeezed during handling. This squeezing can cause damage to bale-wrap.”
Mr Fychan adds conventionally stored bales will form a ‘honeycomb’ affect as bales mould into each other, giving an additional seal to each bale in close contact with the next.
He says this advantage is lost when bales are stored on end, leaving them vulnerable to air ingress and mould growth.
He says: “While there are farmers out there doing this, and doing it well, on end storage clearly presents more risks than benefits and should be discouraged to ensure on-farm safety is not compromised.”
UK Health and Safety guidelines on round bale stacking state: