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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #410819

Research Project: Improving Sustainability of Dairy and Forage Production Systems for the Upper Midwest

Location: Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Research

Title: Recent research and techniques for improved baled silage production

item Akins, Matthew
item Coblentz, Wayne

Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/1/2023
Publication Date: 1/9/2024
Citation: Akins, M.S., Coblentz, W.K. 2024. Recent research and techniques for improved baled silage production. American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings, January 7-10, 2024, Mobile, AL.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Baled silage is commonly produced throughout the US, especially by small and medium-sized livestock producers looking to reduce the risks of weather damage to forage crops. Since the concept of baled silage was developed in the 1970s, research has improved our understanding of baled silage fermentation and led to identification of important management factors for successful production of baled silage. Key management factors include optimal harvest moisture (45-55% moisture), prompt application of 6-8 mil of polyethylene film (within 24 hours), ensuring bale wrap integrity using a storage site free of sharp objects/debris, and regular monitoring of bale wrap for punctures. These factors are based on baled silage having a limited and slower fermentation than precision-chopped silage due to lower recommended moisture concentrations and longer particle size, which reduces availability of plant sugars for fermentation. Moisture recommendations for baled silage were developed to allow for lactic acid fermentation (albeit minimal at lower moistures) while minimizing the potential for secondary clostridial fermentation in wetter bales (>60% moisture). Due to the restricted fermentation especially at lower moistures, quick application of film helps limit respiration and loss of carbohydrates required for fermentation, with delays resulting in less fermentation and lower nutritive value. Maintenance of the anaerobic environment in storage is a key to allow for the slower fermentation process, while minimizing air entry and mold growth. Other factors such as use of inoculants have generally improved fermentation, but with variable results across studies. Additional research is needed to determine situations in which inoculants are most effective in preserving baled silages.