With high feed prices, minimizing forage losses is of great importance to an operation’s bottom line. Forage losses not only decrease available feed, but since most losses are the most nutritious parts of the plant, they also reduce feed quality. Therefore, both reduced quantity and reduced quality contribute to an economic loss.
In a recent issue of Progressive Forage Grower, Dennis Buckmaster presented several tips for reducing forage losses in these three categories: harvest, storage, and feeding losses.
- The decision to begin harvest always carries risks and should be based on both date and weather. To avoid overmature forage and future missed cuttings, Buckmaster suggests mowing when there is little chance of rain. However, one must be willing to take the risk of possible weather-related forage loss.
- Rake when moisture content is near 40%. Rake as few times and as slowly as possible.
- Bale when moisture content is near 18%.
- Chop when moisture content is near 65% for concrete tower silos, 70% for bunker silos, and 55% for steel tower silos.
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- Maintain tower silos in good condition with tight-fitting doors and good sealant.
- Fill silos quickly.
- Store round bales inside or under a cover and off the ground.
- Pack bunker silos well and cover them.
- Implement smart feeding practices.
- Utilize properly designed feedbunks and do not overfill them.
- Check the floor/ground near your feedbunk or feeding stations for feed waste. Adjust practices accordingly to minimize waste.