Silage clamps are under the spotlight as Environment Agency officers turn their attention to out-of-date silage stores. Fortunately, there are solutions on the market to help bring your clamps back up to scratch.
Silage clamps in the UK built or changed after introducing the Silage Slurry and Foil Oil (SSAFO) regulations in 1991 must follow some simple but often misunderstood rules which environment Agency officers will expect to see if they come to your farm.
You can read these here – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/storing-silage-slurry-and-agricultural-fuel-oil
These rules are in place to avoid pollution incidents caused by silage clamp leachate entering watercourses, and most clamps in the UK will fall under their jurisdiction.
Silage clamp leachate has a very high oxygen demand when it breaks down, and when it enters watercourses, it deprives them of oxygen, killing plants and animals. It has a similar effect to raw sewage.
Pollution incidences caused by silage leachate are rare but can cause significant damage and fines, including clean-up costs if traced to your clamps.
The biggest challenge on most farms is the continuing use of earth banked silage pits which are not compliant as there is no interception drain between the silage and the groundwater around the silage pit. Earth banks are also bad for silage quality as the soil can contaminate silage.
To bring an earth bank silage pit back into compliance, you might consider a sloping walled clamp like the Environment Agency approved ARK system. ARK silage clamps line the earth banks with concrete panels and the required built-in perimeter drain.
You can install the ARK system without replacing the clamp base, though this depends on the base’s condition.
Alternatively, you might want to consider a traditional vertical wall. Still, a vertical wall will need space behind it to accommodate a perimeter drain and does not have the other advantages of a sloping wall system, including the inherent safety of a supporting earth bank.
Another option for earth banked clamps is to use a temporary wall like concrete lego blocks or A walls that sit inside the perimeter of the existing clamp base creating the required perimeter drain.
Doing this can be an effective short-term solution, but you will lose some clamp capacity, and temporary walls can be unstable under loading and prone to failure.
You may decide that the site of the current clamp is no longer fit for purpose. There is also the challenge of having it empty for long enough to be able to retrofit walls.
The solution may be to build a new silage clamp correctly specified for your current capacity requirements on another area of your farm. Building a new silage clamp will be a more expensive option in the short term but will ensure the future of your silage storage long term.
With either option, you must allow yourself time to make the correct decision and not rush into investing in a clamp that is not suitable.
If you receive an enforcement notice from the Environment Agency regarding your silage clamps, get in touch with ARK Agri as soon as possible. Our team will help you find a solution to make your clamps compliant and satisfy the EA.