Bale Silage

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers
Knowledge Nuggets
  • Wrap the bales within 5 hours after baling. Spoilage increases dramatically if the time lag is longer. Fermentation without oxygen is the goal and this should be achieved as quickly as possible.
  • Use high quality plastic to seal the bales and maintain them as an airtight package. Any air leakage will cause the material to loose quality and quantity.
  • Leave the bales sealed for at least 20 days for the ensiling process to be completed before feeding to produce a more stable product.
  • All plastic should be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. Many municipalities and rural residents are becoming concerned with waste plastic build up in the environment. A recycling program is needed for this product in Canada
  • The optimum moisture range is 45-55%. Drier material will reduce the quality of the fermentation and wetter material makes the bales too heavy.
  • Harvest the crop in the ideal stage of maturity to maximize sugar concentration and ensiling activity keeping in mind the class of livestock to be fed.
  • Make bales as tight as possible by baling at a slower ground speed. In order to make the bales as tight as possible the swath needs to be the same width as the bale chamber. This will allow for a tight dense surface area at the butt ends of the bale. Soft-core bales are not recommended.
  • Do not rake the swaths before baling to prevent contamination from dirt or manure which may contain undesirable organisms for the ensiling process.
  • Make the bale size and weight compatible to the wrapper, tuber or bag and to the hydraulic capabilites of your tractor. Make smaller bales than you would if they were dry as they may weigh twice as much as hay bales of the same size.
  • Some wrapper and handling systems are designed for bagging or wrapping in the field and then hauling to the feed yard at a later date. It is best that bales be brought close to the feeding area and then sealed in plastic. This facilitates feeding later and reduces damage to the plastic.
  • Bales should be stored in an area not attractive to animals that can damage the plastic. Removal of all growth around the site is a good idea to minimize problems. In some cases netting is used to keep birds off.
  • Bale silage does not ferment fully and should be fed the first winter unless extra wrapping is done.
  • Once bales are opened they have a shelf life of about a week. Keep this in mind when considering a system that opens a row or pile of bales to the air. Some systems like wrappers and some tubers shrink wrap around the bales so the air does not go down the whole row when end bales are removed. In these cases only the bales open to the air are subject to the spoilage.
  • Some balers coming on the market chop the material before going into the bale chamber.
Allan Macaulay PAg
Provincial Silage System Specialist

Fact Sheets

Keys to quality Baled Silage - IL

Bale Silage- SK

Baled Silage - Frequently Asked Questions - AB

Baled Silage Production- MB

Harvesting and Storing Large Bale Haylage- ON

High Dry Matter Legume Crops for Round Bale Silage- NS

Maintaining Quality in Large Bale Silage- ON

Valuing Feed on Moisture Content- AB

Research Papers

Effect of delayed wrapping on preservation and quality of whole crop barley forage ensiled as large bales - available in PDF format only

Effect of maceration at mowing on silage conservation, voluntary intake, digestibility and growth rate of steers fed precision chopped or round bale silages - available in PDF format only

Use of forage innoculants with or without enzymes to improve preservation and quality of whole crop barley forage ensiled as large bales - available in PDF format only

Let us know of more good research papers for this topic.
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Janet Fletcher.
This information published to the web on October 15, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on February 21, 2017.

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