Interest in incorporating baleage into rations is on the upswing among Midwestern dairy producers, says Mike Hutjens, Extension dairy specialist with the University of Illinois.

Hutjens says interest seems to be especially keen among producers with 200 cows or less who are growing most of their own feed. “They see it as a way to get haylage into their rations without having to invest in expensive field choppers, storage units or labor,” says Hutjens. “They can put it up with existing or rented equipment.”

Some larger dairies are also finding baleage works for them. Typically, the larger dairies are contracting with neighboring farms to deliver baleage on an as-needed basis. “They see it as a way to hedge against price spikes for long hay or straw for functional fiber.”

Hutjens says 40-50% dry matter is “a magic spot” for putting up baleage. “Wetter silage can lead to moisture in the base of the bale and development of butyric acid (an uncontrolled rotting situation).”

But going too dry can also lead to problems – less fermentation and compaction resulting in mold risk and less stable silage. “An effective inoculant is recommended,” he says.

To keep cows from sorting, he advises processing the wet bale silage in a tub grinder and/or a TMR mixer with knives. Using precut bales is another option. “You want to reduce the length of the baleage to less than 2” so the cows can’t select the longer material,” he says.

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