Clamp consolidation and sealing key part of the puzzle in cutting feed waste and improving margins
With up to 25 percent of silage dry matter losses occurring during storage, farmers are being encouraged to focus on clamp consolidation and sealing to preserve better quality forage and reduce feed waste.
Dr. Dave Davies of Silage Solutions UK is one of the key partners working alongside Alltech to assess the level of feed waste on-farm. He highlights that the majority of storage losses are invisible and therefore often overlooked by farmers.
“However, the financial implications are high, with losses typically adding over 25 percent to the cost of silage production,” explains Dr Davies. “For example, with a 30 percent dry matter (DM) loss, the real cost of production for every tonne of DM silage made is around £160 compared to £120 per tonne of DM.
“On top of this, DM losses reduce silage quality, most notably the level of metabolisable energy. When the associated impact this has on milk production is considered, it equates to a further £30 per tonne.
“Looking at the overall cost to farmers, individual businesses could easily be experiencing financial losses in excess of £15,000 based on 1,000 tonnes fresh weight of silage at 30 percent DM.”
The good news is that it is possible to significantly reduce DM losses at storage.
“This was highlighted in the results from the recent Alltech Feed Waste Reduction Initiative on-farm pilot study, which assessed storage losses on 34 farms,” explains Dr. Davies.
“Within the best silage clamps, no visible DM losses were recorded. However, it’s important to note that even these clamps would have DM losses in excess of 10 percent.”
He recommends that better consolidation and sealing of the clamp is key to reducing DM losses at storage and removing any visible losses.
“Producers should be aiming to achieve a target density of 750 kilograms of fresh matter per cubic metre, or 220 to 250 kilograms of DM per cubic metre, when rolling grass in the clamp.
“A high density can be achieved by layering forage in the clamp, in layers no thicker than 15 centimetres, and rolling each layer between loads, starting right from the first load,” explains Dr. Davies. “This will help improve overall silage quality, as well as reduce DM losses and minimise aerobic spoilage at feed out.
“Following consolidation, it’s important not to overlook correct sheeting of the clamp to ensure an airtight seal and prevent oxygen ingress during storage. I recommend using a side sheet, oxygen barrier film and top sheet.
“Sufficient top weight should then be applied to form a firm seal. The junction between the wall, the top sheet and the ramp are often problem areas and require particular care. For example, gravel bags should ideally be positioned around the complete periphery of the clamp as well as down the ramp at the front.”
With an average of 60 percent of variable costs spent on feed, Dr Davies believes that taking an holistic approach to waste is key to long-term profitably.
Tel: 07973 616 400