The production of silage and haylage in small conventional bales is no longer regarded as just a seasonal activity, but is a very important and well developed science. It requires careful management, attention to detail, and the correct equipment and methods.
Silage and haylage making is a fermentation process that starts as soon as the hay is baled. Within 15 minutes, its possible to detect heat from bales of silage and haylage, as natural yeasts and bacteria start converting the water-soluble carbohydrates in the moist grass into a range of volatile fatty acids and a (small) amount of ethanol.
Wrap Without Delay
It is very important that silage and haylage is thoroughly wrapped as soon after baling as possible. Otherwise valuable heat is lost, and aerobic fermentation will continue for too long (leading to excessive acetic acid levels). Schwitzer Contracting has two bale wrappers available, to ensure that we are able to wrap the prepared forage immediately or shortly after it has been baled. Other contractors might not be so fussy. A certain amount of acetic acid production is desirable, because it helps the ensiled forage keep by inhibiting growth of yeasts and moulds. However too much acetic acid (caused by waiting too long before wrapping) creates feed that is 'sour' and unpalatable for livestock.
Giving Nature A Hand
The initial aerobic fermentation phase, caused by acetic acid-producing bacteria, drives down the pH level of the forage. As the oxygen in the bale is consumed, the rate of acetic acid production slows down and eventually stops when there is no more oxygen for the acetic-acid bacteria to survive on. The lower pH environment then encourages lactic acid-producing bacteria to become active, and it is this slower lactic-acid fermentation phase that continues for another two or three weeks to finish the fermentation process. Schwitzer Contracting has installed special equipment on its balers, and uses this to automatically add silage innoculant while baling. This free service provides each bale with a boost of 6 types of lactic-acid producing bacteria, plus 4 types of enzymes, to convert plant sugars more efficiently during lactic acid fermentation.
Handle With Care
Schwitzer Contracting are keen to help you make the best possible animal feed from your grass crop. Ideally you'll have grown high quality pasture, and we'll be able to harvest it for you at the optimum time (well before the grass has started going to seed).... in dry sunny weather! Since between us we'll have both taken so much trouble to produce the best possible stock feed from your pasture, its worthwhile taking a little care when handling your bales.
This simply means avoiding punctures or damage to the bale wrapping that will allow oxygen, moisture and harmful bacteria and fungi to get into the bales.
When it comes time to open the bales to feed to your stock, you should be able to judge its quality by its sweet smell and light colour ("a golden brown with hints of orange".) If you really want to get scientific, then consider having a sample of your haylage analysed by a laboratory prior to feeding it to your lifestock, so that you are aware of its nutrient value as a stock feed..