Timing and adequate storage are critical when it comes to silage, because the moment that silage is exposed to air is the moment that oxidisation and spoilage commences. Choosing the right storage is crucial, and today we explore the pros and cons of three popular solutions: bunkers, pits/stacks and baling.
Bunkers store silage in a confined area between earth or concrete walls, and are covered with large tarpaulins or plastic to seal the environment (ideally, this is hermetically sealed). They have been used successfully for many years and offer the producer a large storage capacity at relatively low cost.
Pros: Bunkers contain the silage stack between the walls and reduce the need for sealing the side walls of the stack. They are very cost efficient when doing large volumes.
Cons: Transporting the silage to another location is expensive and inefficient, which means that the most convenient option is to use it on the same property where it is stored.
A silage pit or stack is often established on a graded section of ground near a feed pad or dairy. They have no walls or ends to physically contain the silage, and the stack is layered in the same way as it is in a bunker, but with gently sloping sides, which are then covered in plastic.
Pros: A very economical way to store silage, as there is little preparation cost and easy access. These can be laid anywhere, providing there is reasonable access for 12 months of the year e.g. not boggy or muddy in wet weather.
Cons: This method of storage is best where silage will definitely be used on site. Additionally, these options tends to require more upkeep than a bunker due to the large area of plastic required to cover the entire stack.
Baled storage is when the silage or feed is cut and baled while still green; wrapped tightly and sealed with silage wrap to ensure that bales are not exposed to the elements. Round and square bales can be stored individually in stretch wrap plastic, but the cost of materials makes this a more expensive option.
Pros: This method of silage is very flexible, because it is easy to transport and it’s is possible to sell off any excess if not required. Baling also makes it easy to feed in small amounts where and when required.
Cons: Wrapped bale concept is the most expensive way to store silage, and requires extra labour to get it to the point of storage. It tends to create excessive waste as the wrap can only be used once and then must be disposed of. Furthermore if part of the bale is required for a mix, the other unused part can deteriorate in quality and be wasted if not used quickly after being unwrapped.