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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Dairy Forage Research

Project Number: 5090-21000-056-04-T
Project Type: Trust Fund Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Dec 21, 2011
End Date: Oct 31, 2016

Compare (EVAL-containing) oxygen-barrier and standard polyethylene silage wraps for large-round bales through a series of challenge experiments emphasizing heating characteristics, losses of dry matter, and indices of forage quality that are closely associated with spontaneous heating.

We propose to do a series of three challenge experiments, each designed to place increasingly difficult challenges on the oxygen-limiting properties of the two types of silage wrap (oxygen-barrier and standard polyethylene). In moist hays, spontaneous heating, dry matter loss, and changes in concentrations of fiber components and crude protein fractions are closely related to spontaneous heating/aerobic deterioration. In addition, the energy density of the resultant hay is depressed markedly, and this energy depression also is associated closely with spontaneous heating. Processes of spontaneous heating and aerobic deterioration require oxygen; as such, differences in oxygen permeability should be quantifiable in terms silage producers can easily understand on the basis of these (and related) response variables. We propose to utilize these documented relationships to assess the oxygen-limiting properties of oxygen-barrier and polyethylene silage wraps. Challenge #1 – Based on previous work, six layers of silage wrap will support satisfactory storage characteristics for both polyethylene- and oxygen-barrier-wrapped silages. We propose to wrap 40 bales of alfalfa-orchardgrass forage wilted to approximately 50% moisture with six layers of either polyethylene or oxygen-barrier silage wrap (20 bales each). The challenge to each wrap type will be initiated by delaying wrapping, thereby allowing spontaneous heating to occur. Bales will be wrapped immediately after baling, or after intentionally delaying wrapping by 12, 24, 48, or 72 hours. Each wrapped bale will be fitted with thermocouples at baling, and temperatures will be monitored daily. Internal bale temperatures will rise with time delay for this type of forage, and will likely reach 60C or more within 72 hours. This form of heating is generated by aerobic respiration within the bale, and requires oxygen. Theoretically, bales wrapped with oxygen-barrier plastic should exhibit a more rapid temperature decline following wrapping, lower internal bale temperatures throughout the ensuing 180-day storage period, as well as reduced losses of dry matter relative to polyethylene-wrapped bales. Challenge #2 – This challenge will be structured in an identical manner to Challenge #1, except that only four layers of silage wrap will be used to wrap each bale. Previous work showed that silage bales wrapped with four layers of oxygen-barrier wrap exhibited satisfactory fermentation and storage characteristics, but this approach was clearly marginal for polyethylene wraps. This additional challenge to the oxygen integrity of the wrap should accentuate differences between oxygen-limiting and polyethylene wraps over an identical 180-day storage period. Challenge #3 – The integrity of the plastic wraps will be challenged even further by maintaining the four layers of plastic wrap used in Challenge #2, but wilting the forage to 35% moisture before baling. This should create bales that undergo a restricted fermentation, and are particularly sensitive to heating and external surface mold. Any conduit for entry of oxygen into these bale packages should produce measurable temperature and/or other responses.

Last Modified: 10/17/2017
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