A convenient option
Baled silage has been proved to be the most cost-effective and versatile option for storing silage, following continuing developments in silage films and baling machinery.
Anyone new to silage production today would look seriously at baled silage: it does not require the building and maintenance of clamps or silos and does not involve significant investment. Similarly, where clamps and silos need repair or upgrading, for example to meet environmental standards, the investment may be considered uneconomical in comparison with switching to using bales, with the convenience they can offer.
A simulation study of two herds of 30 dairy cows conducted by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, compared costs for ensiling in round bales and clamp: bales showed 35% lower costs per kg silage DM fed to the cows.
New research and analysis of costs at IGER confirm that baling is a cost-effective alternative, improving the profitability of dairy herds as well as offering an opportunity for higher quality silage with greater flexibility in management of both grazed swards and silage production.
Comparing costs of bale vs. clamp
Building on the model developed by IGER and Dow in 2004, a Benefit Calculator has now been designed to help farmers predict the costs and net benefits of baled silage in comparison to clamp silage.
The model predicts that for high quality ryegrass silage (ME>11.5) and taking into consideration the dry matter losses from bales and clamp of about 7% and 20% respectively, that producing silage for milking there is a cost saving in favour of wrapped, baled silage of 18$ per tonne of dry matter harvested. This would represent an increased margin of feed costs over milk sales of 4,800$ from 1,000 tonnes of silage prepared and fed as bales compared to feeding clamp silage.
The main factor influencing the reduced costs was silage dry matter loss observed in the two systems with bales varying between 0.2-13% and clamp silage between 18-25%.