Producers utilising silage as a major constituent of their feeding programme should always target zero visible waste in silage bunkers, as this could have significant impacts on dairy profitability according to Gordon Marley, Lallemands global Technical Manager. “On average, over 10% of the grass silage harvested is wasted every year in the UK, although this figure applies to many other forages at a global level.”
One of the major problems is that the true cost of waste is not well understood and tends to be vastly under-estimated. It’s a cost most producers either don’t understand or seem to accept. There is no reason why so much silage is wasted, and many producers are now successfully targeting zero visible waste.
Gordon calculates that waste silage costs £90/tonne, so for a 500-tonne clamp with 10% waste, the annual bill would be £4500.” The direct cost is made up of two main elements. The first is the physical cost of growing, harvesting and ensiling the crop which is estimated at £30/t freshweight
To this must be added the cost of replacing the feed value. A tonne freshweight at 30% DM and 10.7MJ ME/kgDM would supply 3210MJ, enough to produce 605 litres. Producing this milk from concentrates, at a feed rate of 0.45kg/l would require an additional 272kg of concentrates, which at £220/t, would cost £60 to replace each tonne of wasted freshweight.
And then there is the labour cost of removing the waste.
“On a 500 tonnes clamp with 10% waste, 50 tonnes of wasted silage will have to be taken off the bunker/silo and disposed of. Assuming 10 minutes per day to remove the waste for a 200-day winter, this adds up to 33 hours.
“Waste is optional, so set out now to make a clamp with zero visible waste your objective. Success will be a combination of planning and attention to detail at silage making time.”
A rapid and thorough fermentation to preserve physical forage and feed value is crucial. Pick an inoculant which is specifically designed to meet the challenges of the forage you are ensiling.
“Ensure the bunker/silo is filled carefully and rolled thoroughly, paying close attention to the shoulders. “Then cover the clamp well, using a true oxygen barrier is recommended. You have to keep oxygen out, and barrier films are the most effective way to do this. The whole clamp must be covered and weighted down comprehensively. Once the clamp is sheeted, keep off it to avoid the sheeting being damaged which would allow air to enter the clamp.
“Given the financial benefits of targeting zero waste, the cost of reducing or eliminating waste is an excellent investment and will contribute greatly to the profitability of any farm”