Hay harvesting is around the corner and with that comes the question of what is the most cost effective and efficient storage option. Baleage involves additional costs, but producers across the country see the added benefits compared to harvesting dry hay. Just like any storage method, baleage requires a well-thought out plan to achieve the desired results.
Dave Hartman, Penn State University Extension livestock specialist, explains that plastic wrapping bales for forage comes with many benefits. “The advantages are clear — reduction in drying time, better leaf retention compared to dry hay, no storage structures needed, and lower weather risk,” Hartman notes. Storing baleage also comes with some added costs. The PA Custom Rate Report shows that bale wrapping costs between $7 to $8 per bale. This includes the plastic wrap, equipment, and plastic disposal.
Producers often have their own preference of optimum bale moisture. Hartman explains that research shows the ideal moisture level should be between 45% and 60%. He notes that this moisture level creates the most favorable conditions to promote fermentation. Studies show that bales with too little moisture have inadequate fermentation, but bales with high levels of moisture are prone to clostridial fermentation. This latter fermentation results in high levels of butyric acid and ammonia, which are dangerous to livestock. Hartman explains that as much air as possible needs to be eliminated from inside the bale to achieve high-quality baleage. The first step is a dense bale. Next, ensure enough plastic wrap is used to stop airflow. University of Wisconsin research studied internal bale temperatures of bales with different thicknesses of plastic wrap and found that bales should be wrapped with a minimum of 6 mils of total plastic.
Another University of Wisconsin study showed that bales need to be wrapped within 24 hours after baling. Other studies conclude that the critical point for wrapping is closer to 12 hours. Hartman suggests wrapping the bale as soon as possible, preferably within that 12-hour window. ~ Michaela King, excerpt from Hay and Forage Grower. see the full article here.