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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Hall, M
item Cherney, J
item Rotz, Clarence - Al

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/20/2002
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Due to cold temperatures or lack of moisture, pastures do not grow during a portion of the year in most of the Northeast region. Since animals need feed year around, harvesting and storing excess pasture forages for use during non-growth periods is critical to maintaining animal production. There are many different harvest and storage systems; however, they all fall into two primary methods that involve either silage or dry hay. Hay production requires a longer field-curing (drying) period to reduce the moisture content of the forage to about 20% or less. Silage production on the other hand, is usually done when the moisture content is between 50 and 70%, depending on the type of storage structure used. Hay and silage storage options offer advantages and disadvantages relative to each other. Silage systems enable greater mechanization of handling and feeding and chopped silage is more conveniently used in total mixed rations. However, silage systems require more power or energy for harvesting, handling, and feeding and also require greater financial investment in both harvest equipment and storage structures. Baled hay requires less storage space and is easier to transport and market. Average total dry matter loss when excess pasture is baled and stored in a shed is between 24 and 28%, while loss in silage production is between 14 and 24%. Since neither system offers a clear and consistent advantage over the other, both are likely to continue being used to save excess pasture forage. Harvesting forages at the proper maturity and using good harvest/storage management practices can greatly improve the amount and quality of the stored product available to feed, improving the economic and environmental sustainability of grazing operations.

Last Modified: 10/17/2017
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