Modern silage films can not only make the ensiling process quicker and more reliable they can also deliver a significant return on investment, say Jim Juby of Horizon Seeds.
“Whilst use of thicker clamp plastics and clingfilm under conventional black Polyethylene has helped ensure good preservation of silage in recent years, many producers are increasingly concerned about the use of such materials.
“Using cling films and true oxygen barrier films can reduce wastage and ensure more of the forage energy clamped is available for milk or livestock production.
“Used properly, surface spoilage is virtually eliminated and top-layer shrinkage losses are reduced considerably with such an approach which means as well as being able to fed your cows better quality silage, you’re actually feeding more of it.
“All told, we believe that for every £1 spent on Silostop film, for example, you'll get up to £7 of extra silage produced as a result.
“Plus there’s the peace of mind that you’re simply using a lot less plastic than with other systems. Silostop films are 100% recyclable, and when used with multi-year UV covers can dramatically lower plastic usage.”
On a typical 16m wide by 50m long clamp conventional black, 125micron (500 gauge), plastic with cling film, 40 micron (160 gauge), would be 109 kg of plastic used, whilst with new Silostop Max this would be only 66kg, he explains.
“In addition, if you invest in the new UV covers, the 45microns (180 gauge) Silostop Orange can be used and at the same clamp size, this combination weighs only 38kg which reduces the amount of plastic used by 65%.”
Whatever film is used, the key is to keep as much oxygen out as possible and to do this it’s worth considering five key points, he says.
1. Use side wall sheeting wherever possible
Applying Silostop wall film is the first operation you should carry out, he says.
“Make sure the clamp is as clean as possible then line the walls with side sheeting to make sure oxygen cannot enter through the walls.
“Ideally, leave 1m of film at the base of the walls so it overlaps onto the floor of the clamp. This will help secure the film when the silage is brought into the clamp.
“An extra1m of film should also be left at the top of the wall so this can be folded back over the silage once the clamp is full. Make the silage surface as dense and smooth as possible by lots of rolling.”
2. Consolidate the clamp carefully
Match the speed of material entering the clamp with enough compacting machinery to ensure all material is consolidated properly, he advises.
“With modern contracting equipment, it’s easy to underestimate the speed at which material will enter the clamp.
“It’s important, therefore, to make sure you have enough tractors consolidating fresh material as it arrives. It’s a false economy to have high work rates in the field that then lead to clamp management being compromised.
“The rule of thumb is that you want 25% of the number of tonnes being delivered into the clamp per hour as steel consolidating the silage.
“So for example if a 16 tonne trailer arrives every 10 minutes that’s 100t/hr and you need 25 tonnes of weight rolling, so you will need another tractor alongside the buck rake.”
3. Make top surface as regular as possible.
The more even you can make the top surface of your clamp, the less likelihood of air pockets arising there will be, Jim Juby says.
“When applying films, do not pull them tight. Allow the film to follow the contours of the silage surface. If needed, overlap the joins in the film by at least 1.5m.
“Side sheets need to be tucked under the final top sheet to give the best airtight seal possible.”
4. Make sure to use the right protective cover
Modern films need suitable protection to make sure they stay in place and to ensure they remain undamaged by weather and potential pests, he adds.
“Silostop Black film and Silostop MAX film must be protected from physical damage using a heavyweight net.
“Silostop Orange film must be protected from physical damage and ultra-violet light (UV) by an anti-UV net or black plastic.”
5. Weight the covers correctly
Gravel bags and matts are the best materials for keeping covers in place, he says.
“Tyre side walls can be used, but they don’t provide weight in the centre of the tyres and you can see waste in the centre of every ring.
“Use solid rows of gravel bags to provide an effective weight on outside edges and seams. Keep these neat and carefully placed rather than simply thrown on the top of the cover.
“Remember, at feed out, always keep a row of gravel bags on the front edge of the film at the top of the feed out face to prevent oxygen ingression underneath the sheet.”