Bale silage lets farmers gain the quality and yield advantages of silage, at a lower cost than chopping.

So says Mike Collins, University of Kentucky agronomist. Hay growers in Kentucky and other humid states lose too much quality and yield during field drying and storage, says Collins.

“We definitely need to look at some ways of improving the quality of our forages, especially legumes,” he says. “They are the best forages but the most difficult to put up as hay.”

Virtually any forage crop can be put up as bale silage. The method offers several advantages over baling hay or chopping, but also some disadvantages, says Collins. The drawbacks: The need to handle heavy bales, maintain plastic integrity, adapt baling equipment to handle wet forage and dispose of used plastic.

Silage bales generally weigh about twice as much as similar sized bales of dry hay. Recommended moisture levels for bale silage: usually 45-65%.

With variable-chamber balers, bale diameter can be reduced to reduce bale weight.