• Well-made baled silage will often exhibit better forage quality characteristics than corresponding hays.
• Hay usually loses more leaves and requires more wilting time, which increases cell respiration and exposure risk to rain damage.
• Baleage has little or no spontaneous heating and less storage loses related to weathering (outdoor storage).
• The goal of baleage is to obtain a good anaerobic fermentation with a quick decrease of pH to ensure conservation of nutrients.
• The quality of the fermentation is related to the type of forage, as there are differences in sugar concentrations (corn and sorghum > small grain crops > legumes) and buffer capacities (legumes > small grain crops > corn and sorghum).
• Promote conditions that promote growth of desired bacteria (lactic acid producing bacteria, LAB) and reduce conditions that promote growth of undesired bacteria (Clostridium sp.).
• The best fermentation occurs when the forage has high concentrations of moisture. However, ensiling too wet forages (greater than 70 percent moisture) can lead to clostridial fermentations, which are not desired. Target for a moisture concentration range between 45 and 55 percent.
• Too wet baleage will result in very heavy bales, which can be less safe to handle or can overload equipment (e.g., loaders).
• Increasing the bulk density also enhances the anaerobic fermentation. For this, reduce the ground speed and decrease the windrow “thickness,” which will increase the revolutions per bale.
• Consider the operative capacity of your baling equipment when mowing your pastures. Exceeding the baling capacity will increase wilting time (due to waiting), therefore increasing losses and limiting fermentation.
• The fermentation for chopped haylage is typically better than for non-chopped baleage (there is greater exposure of sugars in chopped haylage, which enhances the fermentation). Because of this, using inoculants is more important for baleage than it is for haylage.
• Adequate wrapping is critical to obtain good quality haylage. Wrap as quickly as possible (within two hours after baling) and use at least four layers of 25-microfilm. In Southern states (higher temperatures) or for long-term storage, increase wrapping to six layers.
Gonzalo Ferreira is an extension dairy scientist.
—From Virginia Cooperative Extension news release