Making Silage

Making Silage

3 Keys to Making Good Silage

Aug. 24, 2015

There are three keys to making good silage, regardless of whether you're working with drought-damaged, hailed, or a normal crop.

The first key is to chop at the right moisture. Silage in bunkers should be 65-68% moisture and in upright towers, 62-65%. Bags work well for 60-70% moisture levels. Silage chopped too wet will run or seep, carrying away valuable nutrients. Often it also will have a sour, smelly, unpalatable fermentation. Silage chopped too dry usually develops some mold and the silage heats. Cattle eat it really well but protein and energy digestibility can be low in heat-damaged silage.

The second key is to eliminate oxygen. Proper moisture, rapid filling, tight packing, uniform distribution, and correct length of cut all help force air out of the silage.  Then cover the top with plastic to prevent oxygen in the air from penetrating and spoiling the outside two or three feet.

The third key is to encourage rapid fermentation to lower silage pH.  Proper moisture at chopping and tight packing are a great start.  Adding inoculants can speed fermentation and help reduce storage losses.  Sometimes inoculants can also improve silage feeding value.  Inoculants are especially valuable with wet silage but they also can improve silage made at the proper moisture or drier silage.

Good silage provides economical feed for animal production.  Correct moisture, a tight pack, and rapid lowering of pH is a good start to making good silage.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist