Making high quality baleage is essential for livestock raising. In this article, we will go over baleage definition, Ph goal on making good baleage, and 7 tips to make quality baleage for livestock.
What is baleage, pros and cons against chopped silage
Silage is forage preservation by fermenting sugars into organic acid, which prevents spoilage. There are some bacteria work on plant sugar and turn them into organic acids. Those acids reduce the pH level, inhibit the enzymes that serve the function of fungi. The low pH not only stops enzymatic activity, but it also helps to inhibit undesirable bacteria (e.g. clostridial bacteria). This is a process of anaerobic food storage starting about 1500 B.C., written in archives in Egypt and Carthage.
Baled silage, also known as, “Baleage”, is forage of relatively high moisture content is baled and wrapped in plastics to facilitate above said fermentation.
Baleage’s Pros and Cons againt Chopped Silage
- Baleage has relatively lower storage loss (measured by NDF content increase). Actually when we put hay into the barn, it just doesn’t stop respiration and the respiration results in NDF increase.
- Baleage has higher overall forage quality, like lower NDF, ADF, ADL with higher crude protein content; increased digestibility and increased palatability.
- Baleage enables timely harvest and less leaf shatter loss.
- Expense of equipment, labor and wrapping materials could be significant. So it unlikely to be economical for smaller herds (less than 100 cattle).
- Recycling of plastics is impractical or uneconomical, especially for smaller herds.
- Remember “garbage in” = “garbage out”, ensiling cannot transform into something much better than what you started with. Improper baleage making process may lead to severe health problem, we recommend this article “Baleage Mistakes Can Lead to Major Health Consequences” for interested readers.
- Moisture targets can be challenging to hit consistently. If it is too wet, you will risk secondary fermentation and botulism, which could kill the animal. If we go too dry, we may end up with poor fermentation, which indicates not enough drop of pH and may cause moldy feed.
pH Goals of Baleage Fermentation
To make good baleage, you need to have a clear hang of Ph goal. Right fermentation is essential for good livestock health.
When bales are sealed by wrapping, initially we have hetero-fermentative bacteria, they are not so good at converting sugars into lactic acid, they may form a little bit acetic acid. The faster we transition from to lactic acid bacteria (LAB), the faster we will get the pH dropped.
We want to see the pH drop as quick as possible, that stops whole fermentation process and makes the feed stable, and does not consume extra sugars during the process.
Grasses tend to have high sugar content, and they tend to ferment very well , normally after 4 weeks, pH will drop down to 4.0, which is considered well fermented. Legumes have more buffer against pH change, pH does not decrease as quickly, nor as extensively. A pH4.7 will be considered a well-fermented crop for legume. If it is a legume-grass mix, a point between pH4.0-4.7 is considered good depends on percentage level.
Baleage and Chopped Silage are Different in Silage Fermentation
Baleage is different in terms of fermentation than chopped silage. Chopped silage like alfalfa are normally fermented in bunkers or bags, that pH drop is much more efficient and rapid than baled silage.
In baled silage, we might see it will take maybe even 2 months to drop to its low point, chopped silage also takes couple of months to low point but it is a rapid dropping down to safe and stable environment.
In terms of fermentation acids, baled silage does not produce as much these acids as chopped silage.
7 Tips in making good baleage
hereunder YYK Barn Tech sumarized 7 tips of good baleage practice.
- Tip1 no rain damage;
Even with baleage, we need to avoid rain damage, rain will leach out some of the water soluble carbohydrates;
- Tip2 plan ahead for baling and wrapping
A common mistake when farmers start getting into baleage is they will cut down too much at one time what they are used to cutting down for a hay operation, excessive cut means excessive heating and you get extra dry matter loss. Actually, the farmers only need to cut down no more that one can all bale and wrap within 12 hours. Actually wrapping step is bottleneck, which you need to work backwards on it.
The best thing to do is to bail and wrap everything as soon as possible. Some farms just wrap soon as the forage is baled up, those loss are going to be minimum.
In your planning, you need to maximize the bale size, but account for added weight. Taking into consideration of tractor size to make sure what your equipment can handle. And Make dense bales, currently some baling system can make in excess of 13 pounds of dry matter per cubic foot. It is a very dense bale (in comparison, silage make 14-15 pounds of dry matter per cubic foot).
- Tip 3 use net wrap to lay down bale stems
Net wrap is key thing for field efficiency, it also helps to lay the stems down, which keep plastics from being punctured.
- Tip 4 choose a good site for wrapping
Near feeding area would be ideal to wrap the bales. Wrapping at storage site reduces handling and risks of damage.
Ensure site poses low risk of damage. Choose sod or level surface with no puncture risks. Mow or prevent weeds around bales.
- Tip5 regularly observe for damage by wildlife or vandals.
If you notice it quickly, you should get the bale patched up or re-wrapped. If you don’t spot the damage really quick, it will cause huge loss.
- Tip 6 apply plastics appropriately.
At least 6 layers on individual bales. At least 8 layers on inline bales. Use end caps, end caps are kind of expensive, however, it is cheaper than losing a bale. Clean stretch rollers regularly to avoid over stretch the plastics.
- Tip7 ensure moisture at baling is 40-60%
Right moisture will get a good pH drop for alfalfa. If bale is too dry or wet, we will get real challenge. To determine the moisture, there are some moisture tester / probes on market, but those gadget are normally imprecise. The great way is microwave moisture test, or using drying oven and scale for measurement.