Submitted to: Dairy Seminar Proceedings Western Canada
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/20/2003
Publication Date: 3/12/2003
Citation: Rotz, C.A. 2003. How to maintain forage quality during harvest and storage. Dairy Seminar Proceedings Western Canada. 15:227-239.
Technical Abstract: High quality forage is recognized as an important requirement for maintaining maximum production of dairy cattle. The greatest obstacle to producing high quality forage is rapid field curing. Conditioning and tedding treatments can speed drying, but such processes also cause loss of yield and nutritive quality. Although some loss is inevitable, good management can reduce or compensate for these losses to provide the quality forage needed. The benefits received must be weighed against the added costs to determine the best procedures for hay and silage making on your farm. Experience has shown that rapid field curing is important and a good mechanical conditioner can help speed drying. Hay should be spread in wide swaths to further speed drying, but very thin swaths must be avoided to reduce raking loss. Tedding may be useful in drying grass crops, but it should be avoided with alfalfa, particularly after the crop has partially dried. Routine baling of high moisture hay should be avoided. When damp hay is baled, an organic acid based treatment should be used to help preserve hay. Good silo management, including rapid filling, adequate packing and a tight cover, is required to maintain ensiled forage quality. When using silage bags or bale silage, covers should be checked for punctures periodically to assure that a tight seal is maintained. Remember that on the dairy farm, only about one third of the forage needs to be of the highest quality when that forage is segregated by quality and fed to animal groups accordingly.