Denser the better when it comes to wrapping forage

Denser bales with greater total acid production stay cooler during the fermentation process, further contributing to reduced spoilage

NEW ORLEANS, La. — Research on forage quality and storage has shown the denser the bale, the better.

“The moral of the story is you want to have as dense a bale as possible. That is going to help improve your overall bunk life, as well as increasing the forage quality,” said forage researcher Jessica Williamson of Pennsylvania State University.

“If you have properly wrapped forage, a fermented forage will keep indefinitely as long as the plastic is not punctured. You have to make sure oxygen does not penetrate the bale,” she said in an interview at the recent National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention held in New Orleans.

Total acid production, including lactic and acetic acids, were greater in bales with greater densities. Greater acid production is desired in ensiled forages because it ensures the stabilization and indicates better quality and feed value.

The study also found denser bales with greater total acid production stayed cooler during the fermentation process, further contributing to reduced spoilage.

The study funded by New Holland evaluated four different machines set to bale at maximum density travelling at three different speeds of four, eight and 12 m.p.h. Bales were wrapped within four hours after baling at a minimum of six mils of wrap on each one to eliminate oxygen.

The best results were achieved when travelling at eight m.p.h., said Curt Hoffman of New Holland.

“That is something we didn’t expect to see. It caught us totally by surprise,” he said.

This research has helped guide the company on adjustments to get the best performance out of the machine and produce the densest bales.

Higher density equates to up to 39 percent fewer bales, resulting in less twine or net wrap used, as well as plastic silage film, reduced labour and reduced overall baling and moving time in the field.

The New Holland baler is rated to produce bales no heavier than 2,500 pounds. Producers worried they could end up with a 3,000 lb. bale because more is packed into a single area.

“Instead of taking your density and backing it off, don’t do that because it affects quality feed, make your diameter small enough so you can pick it up,” he said.

Another advantage is the baler has two different cutters to cut the plants into smaller pieces. As the bale spins down, knives in the chamber cut up the plants so they don’t have spring back. After wrapping with net plastic, crop memory is erased and the stems do not easily straighten out.

The bale slice option and crop cutters have been available for about 20 years.

Every other knife can be removed for longer forage pieces if the animals are fed on the ground.

“If I can make particles about the width of a cow’s mouth, it is shorter so they pull it all into their mouths,” Hawkman said.

Longer pieces fall out and are wasted.

“If you presize it to the cow’s mouth, they waste a lot less,” he said.

“You can save 10 to 15 percent of your hay just by cutting it up,” he said.

There are other savings.

The bales are denser by 14 to 15 percent and wick up less water from the ground. Dense bales shed rain and snow better, said Brian Spencer of Case IH.

Case IH offers similar features with steel rollers rather than belts to tighten the bales.

Case also has a feature to chop up the plants.

“When you are chopping it up into those smaller particles, it is really compressed,” he said.

The concept is not new but research proves it is a better idea.

“You may even be feeding less per week because you have got 200 lb. more product in every bale,” said Spencer.

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