Hay producers should consider making baleage this year to speed up harvest as they deal with significant rainfall and little sun, says one forage specialist.
Baleage, or silage in a bag, is a good option because the forage can be stored at a high moisture content, says Rob Kallenbach, University of Missouri Extension. That can reduce harvest time from three or more days down to as little as one.
“You can usually find one clear day to harvest baleage,” he points out.
Forage can be bagged as baleage at moisture contents of up to 65%. Hay in round bales, in comparison, should be dried to 16% moisture to avoid spontaneous combustion.
Baleage lets growers harvest hay before seed heads set and when its nutrient content is highest. It also sets the stage for solid spring regrowth.
Don’t let hay become too dry before bagging it, Kallenbach warns. Forage needs to be at 40% or higher moisture content to be ensiled properly. Otherwise, it brings too much oxygen into the wrapping.
Be sure to wrap bales tightly – to keep oxygen out and allow for good fermentation. If bales aren’t airtight, the forage specialist adds, forage can mold. Seal any holes in the wrap with tape.
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