In order to achieve this, many growers are now harvesting and storing alfalfa or grass silage as baleage (50 - 60 percent moisture baled hay). Some advantages include: less drying timing, smaller investment in machinery and storage and in many cases the same baler can be used for both dry and high moisture forage. Depending on quality, baleage can be stored and fed.
However, careful and timely management is required to produce a high-quality baled silage from field-to-feed-bunk. Field operations need to be coordinated in such a way that the wrapped bales contain a consistent forage moisture. Variation in forage yield and species mixture, as well as field topography, are just a few of the things that can cause moisture variation during harvest. When more hay has been cut than can be baled and wrapped in the 50 - 60 percent moisture window - inconsistent feed intake, fluctuations in daily milk yield and a range of health problems can occur.
Baling when forage moisture is too high can lead to low quality silage, often as a result of clostridia fermentation. Baling when the forage is too dry makes it very difficult to exclude oxygen and results in a lower quality crop that has delayed fermentation, a higher pH and lower lactic acid production.
New research on best management practices for producing baled silage will be presented at the upcoming Michigan State University Agriculture Innovation Day, Aug. 24, 2017, at the Lake City Research Center, where participants will be able to see up close how moisture levels affect the forage quality.
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