Once hay crop or corn silage is ensiled and fermented, it’s always best if it stays in place until the crop is fed. Sometimes, however, situations arise where it will need to be moved and re-ensiled for longer-term storage.
Whenever silage is moved, there is the risk of additional dry matter loss and spoilage. That’s especially the case when temperatures begin to warm up in spring and summer.
“When silages are exposed to oxygen, such as if they are moved, oxygen ‘wakes up’ the yeasts and can cause massive spoilage,” says Michelle Windle, forage products and dairy technical specialist for Vita Plus.
Randy Shaver, University of Wisconsin dairy extension specialist, says that corn silage and cereal forages are most prone to heating during silage transfer because of their inherent high levels of yeast and available sugar. He notes, however, that any grass or legume silage is also prone to deterioration after transfer, especially if the initial fermentation was incomplete.
There are two keys to making a silage move successful. The first is to do it from late fall to early spring when temperatures are cool. The second is to exclude oxygen as quickly and completely as possible once the silage is moved.
Windle notes that if silage is going to be stored in a bunker or on a pile, packing to a high density will be needed to eliminate any air pockets. She also suggests covering the pile with a high-quality oxygen-barrier plastic.
Once covered, excess oxygen can be sucked from underneath the pile using a shop vacuum. Windle also recommends using pantyhose over the end of the intake hose to keep silage from being sucked into the vacuum.
If the silage is going into a silo bag, make sure the silage is packed tightly and the bag is properly sealed. Again, a shop vacuum can be used to suck out any excess oxygen.
If there is concern that the moved silage will spoil because of high temperatures or silage quality, the use of an organic acid such as a buffered propionic acid product can be applied at the rate of 4 pounds per ton. Organic acids are strong antifungal agents. Because the silage has already gone through a fermentation, it will do little good to reinoculate the silage with a standard bacterial inoculant.
Windle suggests that if you know the silage will need to be moved after its initial ensiling, inoculating the feed with an L. buchneri-based product will help preserve the silage during transfer. L. buchneri favors the production of acetic acid, which is effective in controlling yeast growth.
Moving silage for further long-term storage is never an ideal scenario; however, some advanced planning as to when and how the silage will be transferred can improve the odds for success. Finally, Shaver suggests that moved silage be fed out as quickly as possible, removing sufficient amounts each day to keep the feedout face cool.