Submitted to: Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/12/2007
Publication Date: 1/31/2007
Citation: Coblentz, W.K. 2007. Round-Bale Silage - Management Issues to Consider. In: Proceedings of the Midwest Forage Association Symposium. 2007 Midwest Forage Association Symposium and Annual Meeting, January 30-31, 2007, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. 2007 CDROM.
Interpretive Summary: Producers can make good silage with baling and wrapping techniques. Most principles of management applied commonly to conventional chopped silages are appropriate for round-bale silage. Systems producing round-bale silages will generally accommodate drier (<50% moisture) forages better than relatively wet (>65% moisture) ones. Fermentations may occur at a slower rate for round-bale silage because forages are often ensiled on a whole-plant basis (no length reduction), and are usually drier than chopped silages at baling/wrapping. As a result, producers should diligently address other management details, such as maximizing bale density, applying plastic wrap promptly and properly, and protecting the wrapped product from damage until feeding.
Technical Abstract: Ensiling moist forages packaged in round bales has numerous advantages over other silage systems, especially for small- and mid-sized producers. As a result, these systems are becoming more popular, and can be observed commonly throughout the country. While some specific procedural aspects of these techniques contrast sharply with those of conventional, precision-chopped silage, the overall goal and most of the basic principles are identical. The fermentation goal is to create an anaerobic environment in which plant sugars are converted by bacteria to lactic acid, thereby reducing the pH of the forage mass. If a low pH is achieved, and anaerobic conditions are maintained, silages remain relatively stable until they are offered to livestock. Some of the basic principles used routinely in production of conventional chopped silages that can be applied directly to round-bale silages include: i) start with high-quality forage; ii) recognize inherent differences in ensiling characteristics between forages; iii) manage closely the moisture content of the forage before ensiling; iv) eliminate air (maintaining anaerobic conditions); and iv) use good feeding management techniques. Primarily, round-bale silages differ from conventional chopped silages because they are drier (50% moisture is considered ideal), and often they are ensiled without reducing plant length. As a result, round-bale silage may undergo a more restricted fermentation, resulting in a slower rate of pH decline, and a greater final pH. Theoretically, this should result in less stable silage, especially when exposed to air. Therefore, producers should diligently address other management details, such as maximizing bale density, applying plastic wrap promptly and properly, and protecting the wrapped product from damage until feeding.