8 Bunker Packing Tips for Quality Feed

Silage storage and feedout loss of dry matter (shrink) cost money and curb the nutritional value of the remaining silage, which operations must replace with costly energy sources such as corn grain.

Several factors combine to produce and preserve nutrients in harvested silage, notes Bill Ramsey, DuPont Pioneer livestock information manager. The maturity of corn silage at harvest dramatically affects the nutritional value of a hybrid. As the plant matures, starch content increases, improving potential feed quality. In plants with excellent late-season plant health, stalk strength and standability, this increased quality can be achieved without reducing fiber digestibility.

In addition, appropriately high moisture levels also help create a good environment for desirable front-end fermentation. Inoculants with research-proven, reputable silage lactic acid bacteria strain can reduce anaerobic fermentation losses by 25%.

One of the keys to preserving nutrient value is proper packing of the bunker. Packing should reduce the amount of trapped air to curtail the growth of aerobic organisms (harmful yeasts and molds) that are detrimental to the ensiling process.

Brian Holmes, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Professor Emeritus Keith Bolsen, Kansas State University, provide the following advice:

  1. Check silage densities, but only if it can be done safely. Be prepared to adjust filling and packing procedures.
  2. Reduce the forage delivery rate. This can be difficult because few producers and silage contractors are inclined to slow the harvest rate.
  3. Employ well-trained, experienced people, particularly in the cases of those who operate the push-up/blade tractor or tractors. Provide training as needed, and emphasize safety.
  4. Increase the rate of forage push up and packing. By increasing this in relation to the harvest rate, producers will reach target density.
  5. Spread forage consistently. Do this continually in thin layers of 6-8 inches during the entire filling and packing operation.
  6. Increase packing tractor weight.
  7. Increase the number of packing tractor passes over all forage layers. Caution: Additional tractor passes require more packing time per ton.
  8. Consider drive-over piles. Silage piles need to be constructed correctly to be cost-effective. All four sides of the pile (two ends, two long sides) need to be well-packed. All four sides need to be on a slope shallower than a 1-foot rise to a 3-foot run so a packing tractor can get up and over the pile. Piles need to be packed lengthwise and crosswise, which is why the large footprint is required.

For more information, visit the bunker management section on The Silage Zone.

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