DUE to significantly higher fertiliser prices, many farmers are now conserving less silage for their livestock.
This means that they are now more dependent on compound feed which has also increased significantly in price due to the war in the Ukraine. In addition numbers of dairy cows, cattle and sheep in Northern Ireland have also increased over the past two years so there are more livestock to feed.
According to the June 2022 Agricultural Census released by the DAERA, total cattle numbers have increased to 1,686,999. The number of both beef and dairy cows remained relatively consistent (246,240 beef and 316,775 dairy cows).
There was an increase of just three per cent in breeding ewes compared to 2021, with numbers increasing to 997,227. Overall, the total number of sheep recorded was 2.1 million, which was just over a three per cent rise from June 2021.
For 2021 total cattle numbers increased by four per cent to 1,681,991. The number of beef cows increased by one per cent to 246,956 while the number of dairy cows increased by two per cent to 318,372. There was also an increase of two per cent in breeding ewes compared to 2020, with numbers increasing to 968,300. Overall, the total number of sheep recorded was just over two million, which was also a two per cent rise from June 2020.
However, due to ongoing technology improve-ments, the baled silage system is far more cost effective and environmentally friendly. Silage quality is better and there is more kgs of dry matter (DM) available per bale for feeding to valuable livestock. The relatively new Film & Film (F&F) system is an innovative dual wrapping method, which combines the use of SilotitePro balewrap and Baletite netwrap replacement film.
This results in better shaped and more compact bales which can better withstand handling and have a longer storage life. Using baler film instead of netwrap, the F&F wrapping system helps to reduce silage losses, virtually eliminating mould growth and preventing silage becoming enmeshed during feedout.
By using film to bind the bale together, removal and recycling of the film is made easier as the farmer is only left with one product to recycle and can avoid the time consuming job of separating netwrap from the stretch film.
Baletite enhances the ensiling process and protects the contents of the bale by creating additional layers of protection around the bale. It provides an air barrier that helps to prevent the growth of white mould, which can cause valuable silage losses. Using Baletite as an alternative to netwrap results in better shaped bales by exerting a tighter grip around the bale circumference.
Excellent trial results have been obtained in Wales by Dr Dave Davies of Silage Solutions Ltd, who acts as an independent consultant to the Silage Advisory Centres. Dr Davies is a former Senior Research Scientist at the Institute of Grassland & Environmental Research (IGER) at Aberystwyth in Wales.
On a trial he conducted on a commercial farm in Wales under real working farm conditions, Dr Davies demonstrated that Film & Film wrapped bales had:
n 7.5 per cent less dry matter (DM) losses compared to netwrap bales due to an enhanced fermentation process.
n 80 per cent less DM losses compared to netwrap bales due to mould formation on the bale.
n The reduced losses that resulted through the use of the F&F wrapping system meant that the farmer on this farm gained more forage to feed to his herd. For a dairy farmer, preserving forage more successfully could provide a significant financial benefit as follows:
This farmer gained an average of 7.35kg DM per bale using the Film & Film wrapping system.
As 1kg of DM = 11.8MJ ME (Metabolisable Energy), this means that the farmer gained 86.73 MJ ME per Film & Film bale (7.35kg DM x 11.8MJ ME).
In order to produce ome litre of milk you need: ± 5.8MJ/litre MJ ME.
Therefore the 86.73MJ ME averagely gained for each of these bales could give an additional 15 litres of milk production.
For a cattle farmer this was equivalent to an increase of 1.9kg of live weight gain per bale.
The value of the extra silage conserved is around £4.40/bale. This calculation is based on data supplied in December 2022 by Dr Tom Butler of FBA Laboratories.
It is important to note that the above trial was undertaken under commercial farm conditions and not on a research institution farm where bales are carefully handled and stored under ideal conditions by well-trained research staff.
Bales wrapped using this system also have a longer storage life, are easier to handle or stack and are more valuable to farmers buying extra forage for their livestock. The high holding force of Baletite in this wrapping system maintains the pressure that has been applied during baling.
Indeed trials undertaken by the ILVO (Institute for Research in Agriculture) in Belgium found that bales wrapped using the Film & Film System on average contained 10 per cent more silage and these bales were on average 2cm smaller in circumference than traditional netted bales.
The cost of baling and wrapping with four layers of wrap in Northern Ireland was circa £11 per bale in 2022 and agri contractors often charge an additional £0.90 for using a netwrap replacement film.
So the extra feed value not only covers this but it also pays for more than a third of the total cost. A very good reason indeed to switch from netwrap to the F & F wrapping system.
This F & F system is also recommended by Kuhn, winner of ‘Machine of the Year’ in the AgriTechnica forage harvesting category in 2018, and a LAMMA Silver Award winner in 2019. Check out its videos on YouTube.
A typical contractor comment is as follows: “The film and film bales keep their shape better in storage and are less prone to damage. A lot of my customers are using bale splitters so this makes life a lot easier as no separation of balewrap and netting is needed. On top of this farmers are finding that silage quality is better and there is virtually no mouldy silage. So there are lots of advantages indeed.”
Information such as customer name, number of bales, average bale weight and moisture content can be printed out by modern balewrappers. This information is very useful for any farmers feeding the bales to their livestock or negotiating bale prices with other farmers.
Nowadays most bales are chopped and these are 8-12 per cent heavier than conventional round bales, save on stretch film, take up less storage space and are easier to feed out. When crop is chopped it results in more material compressed in the bale. This leads to a reduction in transport and film costs per kg of silage wrapped.
Chopping the forage allows for optimum fermentation as the sugars in the crop will be readily available from the dry crop. This results in the production of superior quality fodder that can be easily digested. Chopped forage is easier to distribute from diet feeders and straw blowers as the short material can be processed and distributed far quicker than longer material.
Although the optimum per cent DM for bales may vary for dairy, beef and sheep, avoiding over-wilting is important for any livestock in order to optimise nutrient value. A notable difference in Northern Ireland is that bales are usually made at 25-35 per cent dry matter (DM), rather than the usual 35-45 per cent DM or higher as typical of bales in Britain. This makes them heavier – weighing about 850-900kg compared with 600-650kg – but cuts wilting time. This also reduces in-field nutrient losses and is a boon during changeable weather.
Baling at 25 per cent to 35 per cent DM provides an opportunity to improve the fermentation for a better preservation, and makes them less susceptible to heating and spoilage problems that affect drier silage.
Many independent research trials show that using a proven silage additive can result in more silage recovered from the grass that was baled or clamped. For farmers aiming to make high-quality silage, the inclusion of a quality additive can significantly improve silage fermentation and quality.
This is important as increasing silage quality will lead to a higher level of production on beef, dairy and sheep farms. For example, based on trial results one proven additive had the following benefits.
n Metabolisable Energy (ME) increased by an average of 0.7MJ/kg of dry matter (DM).
n Silage digestibility improved by an average of 3 D units.
n DM intakes increased by five per cent on average.
Given the increase in energy content, digestibility and DM intakes, the use of additive treated silages obviously leads to an increase in animal performance as measured by higher milk yield (an average of 1.2 litres/cow/day in 15 various trials) or better liveweight gain (19 per cent higher). Based on research trial results you can triple your return on investment from using a silage additive.
When baled silage was first introduced bales were around 50 per cent of the current weights and film was only stretched 55 per cent. Now it is stretched 70 per cent so less balewrap is now used per kg of grass wrapped and there is also less film to recycle after use.
The five key elements for a good performing silage stretch film are cling capacity, puncture resistance, tear resistance, elongation at break and tightening force. Silotite Pro 1800 also benefits from an enhanced oxygen barrier – critical to ensuring excellent crop conservation.
Benefits include more 20 per cent more bales wrapped per reel, significant time savings for the busy silage contractor, and enhanced silage quality for livestock. Its unique sleeve packaging means that it has 45kg less packaging/pallet, with no bulky boxes to move around and recycle separately. The packaging is made of the same material as the film inside, so it can all be recycled together.
Both Baletite and balewrap can be recycled together, saving valuable time and labour costs unlike netwrap which has to be recycled separately.
The Silotite range of stretch films now includes Silotite Sustane, which uses 30 per cent recycled materials, using a mixture of mechanically or advanced recycled materials from industrial, agricultural and consumer films that have been recycled. Silotite Sustane can also be recycled again, meaning that the contribution to sustainability goes even further, to create even more recycled products.
Berry bpi who manufacture Baletite & Silotite is a leading recycler of bale wrap products and other packaging in Europe, with the scope and expertise to recycle over 150,000 tonnes pa. Every tonne of polythene recycled saves 1.8 tonnes of crude oil, reduces energy usage by two thirds, entails 90 per cent less water and cuts Sulphur dioxide emissions by 33 per cent. Useful products manufactured from recycled balewrap and silage covers include calf pens, fencing posts, floor slats, garden furniture, gates, pet housing, rubbish bags, water piping, etc.
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