The hay harvest season is here for some and soon to be here for others. If haylage is being stored in a bunker or silage pile, then the importance of pack density can’t be overemphasized. In fact, there may not be such a thing as too dense.

In Cornell University’s Field Crops News, Joe Lawrence and Ron Kuck recently discussed the merits of having a dense pack. PRO-DAIRY’s Lawrence is a dairy forage systems specialist, and Kuck is an extension educator in Jefferson County, N.Y.

The specialists make the point that there is really no point of diminishing returns when it comes to packing horizontal silos. Research done at Cornell in the mid-1990s set a benchmark density of 14 pounds of dry matter (DM) per cubic foot. However, this level of density was set as a minimum.

The long-standing guideline to achieve a minimum acceptable pack density is 800 pounds of packing weight per ton of forage delivered to the silo per hour.

Lawrence and Kuck make the point that, if your system is set up to attain a density of 14 pounds of DM per cubic foot, it’s likely that, with changing crop conditions or silage delivery rates, the attained density will be something less than this minimum.

Investing in “packing power” not only ensures that silage density won’t fall below the minimum, but it also may improve forage quality, reduce DM losses, and allow for the storage of more forage on a smaller footprint or within an existing structure. This additional storage capacity can be significant in a large bunker or pile structure.