Forage around for baleage tips

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ITHACA, N.Y. – Bill Henning, Cornell Cooperative Extension, offers this advice for getting the most out of your baleage:

1. Cut early and often – The whole idea is to use a harvest/storage system that helps mitigate the risks of poor quality forage.

2. Wilt to no less than 35 percent dry matter (DM) for quality and consider wilting to 45 percent DM for cost of operation. Correct DM content is essential to minimize labor, machinery and film costs.

3. Wrap as soon as possible (within two hours of baling) to optimize fermentation.

4. If you adhere to Nos. 1-3, you would be crazy to wrap with less than 6 layers of plastic at 70 percent pre-stretch. Six layers means 11/2 turns of the bale on its longitudinal axis with a 50 percent overlap of the plastic.

5. Not controlling variation in nutrients delivered to cows affects the bulk tank in the short run and can affect cash flow in the longer run. Adopt a mapping, sampling/analysis and ration adjustment strategy.

6. No one doubts your abilities as an equipment operator. However, bale density is the name of the game and swathing and driving techniques will affect it.

7. Regardless of which bale handler you choose, gentler is better and don’t break the seal! allowing air to enter will spoil the bale.

8. Unless you have unlimited land with excellent drainage close to the feed center, stack bales on end two to three high in a prepared yard will pay dividends. More film overlap is on the ends.

9. Distance from field to feed center dictates storage site and bale mover options.

10. Feedout equipment need not be expensive. Labor efficiency and adaptability to your facilities are key.

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