We usually hay because it is very dry in Southwest Saskatchewan. But this year the forecast was for a rainy wet July. Which makes drying hay a difficult process. So this year we are trying Silage.
What is Silage
Silage has some advantages as it does not have to dry. It is chopped and goes right into a pile that gets covered with tarps. It is a high moisture forage crop that usually has a higher protein content than dried forages.
This is something we are trying because of the weather. We have a higher yield this year due to the rain. Another advantage of silage is that you get more feed from the same acres. There is limited waste, at least so far, as spoilage in the pile creates its own waste. We also have the manpower to accommodate it this year. Silage requires lots of people to harvest.
We start with a standing barley field.
It gets swathed (we used a 40 foot header), it is not left to dry. The custom silager (aka forage harvest or chopper), comes directly behind picking up the swath to chop it into a truck that comes alongside.
Once the truck is full, it leaves the field and heads to the pile location at the farmyard (approximately 1-2 miles). At the pile there is a tractor with a blade. The blade is used to push the silage up onto the pile. He will continue to drive back and forth on the pile packing it in. This is important part, as this is what maintains the moisture content throughout the winter. A bad pack job makes lousy feed. It is quite a dance back and forth across the pile.
Once the pile is complete we cover it with a tarp. This seals in the silage to maintain the right amount of humidity (a semi-humid environment).
It is stored until we are ready to feed calves in the fall. At that point, it can be mixed with chopped hay and rolled barley to make a total mixed ration. The calves will be anxiously awaiting this scrumptious meal.
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