Conserving Forage

Conserving forage for use during times of low forage production is a common practice for beef cattle enterprises.

The following information is a summary of the UF/IFAS EDIS publication Comparison of Hay or Round Bale Silage as a Means to Conserve Forage, by Matt Hersom, Todd Thrift, and Joel Yelich. The full publication can be found on the UF/IFAS EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/an266.

Why Conserve Forage?

During periods of low forage productivity (winter, drought, etc.), field forage may not be adequate to meet the nutrient requirements of the herd. During these times, many producers rely on stockpiled hay or hay purchased from an alternative source. Since Florida’s climate presents challenges for conserving forage for later feeding, it is useful to have alternatives to hay so that producers can meet the nutritional requirements of their herd.

Challenges

Conservation of forage in Florida is challenging because of the climate. Hay production requires forage harvesting during periods of low(er) humidity to achieve drying. Since Florida’s climate consists of mostly high humidity days during the growing/harvesting season, forage for hay is often harvested after it has matured beyond its nutritional peak.

An Alternative

Round bale silage (RBS) presents an alternative to traditional forage harvest and storage that does not require the optimal weather conditions during cutting, drying, and baling. Round bale silage can be a complementary system used along with traditional hay harvesting to ensure that you herd has nutrition available over the cool and/or dry months.

Use of the RBS system increases the flexibility of the forage operation. Several consecutive days of dry weather are not required to use this system. This also allows harvesting in a timely manner that prevents the loss of nutrients to over-maturity or weathering. Because RBS systems do not require the drying time needed in traditional hay operations, less plant material is lost to processing and handling. Lastly, forage conserved in an RBS system will maintain quality outside, so there is no requirement for a housing structure.

Summary & Additional Information

Using a round bale silage system works very well as an alternative or complement to a traditional hay system. It can help the operator optimize quality and quantity, and decrease storage loss. For additional information on round bale silage and its use as an alternative to traditional hay methods, please visit the UF/IFAS EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/an266.

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