Disadvantages of silage
Silage storage losses can be high if crops are not harvested at the proper moisturecontent, facilities are inadequate, the crop is notchopped correctly and packed well, and/or silos arenot sealed properly.
Silage must be fed soon afterremoval from storage to avoid spoilage due toexposure to oxygen. Storage facilities with anexposed silage surface must be sized to match thefeeding rate to prevent spoilage. Also, when silagefeeding is discontinued for a long period, resealingis required to avoid greater storage losses andspoilage problems.
Producing high-quality silagerequires intensive management of all aspects of theensiling process. Poor silage management practicescan result in reduced feed quality, low milk produc-tion, and increased risk of health problems. Propermanagement practices help to limit these risks.
Handling and storage costs.
Silage is bulky to storeand handle; therefore, storage costs can be highrelative to its feed value. Storage facilities are special-ized and have limited alternative uses. Silage is costlyto transport relative to its bulk and low density of energy and protein. Therefore, transportation costsoften limit the distance silage can be moved.
Investment costs and cash flow.
The machinery andequipment investment per ton of silage harvested,stored, and fed can be high unless a large quantity ishandled annually. Furthermore, inadequate cashflow during the financing period may cause difficul-ties in carrying out what appears to be a profitable
Pennsylvania silage production
from 1970 to 2002.
Source: Pennsylvania Agricultural Statistics Service.
Includes all types of forages harvested for haylage or green chop; dry hay isnot included.
Feeding adequate quantities of high-quality foragesis the basis of profitable milk and livestock produc-tion. Forage production, harvest, storage, and feedpractices have changed greatly over the past 50years in Pennsylvania, and silage has become astaple forage, as shown in Table 1.Compared to hay production, silage increasesthe potential yield of nutrients from available land,decreases feed costs, lowers harvest losses, and oftenincreases forage quality. Silage can also reduce laborneeds through greater mechanization of harvestingand feeding.High-level management and sizeable financialoutlays are necessary to efficiently produce, harvest,store, and feed silage. The information in thispublication should enable you to make more effec-tive decisions about harvesting, managing, andfeeding silage.
Advantages of silage
Relative nutrient yield.
Of the feed crops adapted toPennsylvania, corn harvested as silage yields thegreatest quantities of energy per acre, and alfalfaproduces the greatest quantities of protein per acre.Both alfalfa and grass usually provide more energyand protein when harvested as silage than as hay.
Reduced field losses.
Direct-cutting of hay-cropsilages avoids extended weather damage and leaf shattering; even wilting hay-crop silages may resultin reduced losses when compared to dry hay. Lossesfrom ear dropping and grain shattering that occurduring corn silage harvest are lower than thoseoccurring during grain harvest.
Flexible harvest dates.
Producers can decide late inthe growing season how much corn to harvest assilage or as grain. Small grains and other annualssuch as sorghum-sudan hybrids also may be har-vested as silage or grain.
Efficient use of labor.
Timing of harvest and sched-uling of labor can be extended by planting cropvarieties of differing maturities. Combining variouscrops, such as grasses, legumes, and corn, canspread labor and management demands over theentire cropping season. Silage systems are also moremechanized and less labor-intensive than dry haysystems, which can increase labor productivity.