Drive-over piles are a common silage storage structure. A well-constructed silage pile can be one of the most economical choices for storing forage. However, drive-over piles can be difficult to pack and have a large area that need to be covered, which if done incorrectly may result in dry matter (DM) losses.
These challenges can be minimized with preparation before harvest and fast work during pile construction.
Use these tips to better manage silage piles and preserve silage quality —
1. Location, location, location.
Choose your silage pile site with proper drainage in mind. The pile should be located on a non-porous floor — such as cement, tarmac, etc. — with sufficient slope to carry rain and snowmelt away from the pile.
2. Size matters.
Pile dimensions must be sized to safely provide proper storage to accommodate the amount of forage being brought in. Doing so ensures face dimensions will allow the target feed-out rate to prevent heating. Use these spreadsheets and factsheets to help calculate pile dimensions.
3. Pack properly.
It’s important to continuously pack forage during harvest time. This helps achieve an anaerobic environment, which gets the fermentation process started as quickly as possible to reduce DM and nutrient losses.
The minimum recommended packing density is 44 pounds per cubic feet on a fresh weight basis or 15 pounds per cubic feet at 35% DM.
4. Use the wedge.
In addition, use a progressive wedge technique for pile construction. This maximizes packing efficiency and safety, as well as minimizes the silage surface exposed to air.
Aim for a 4:1 run-to-rise ratio or higher. Packing equipment should be operated continuously throughout chopping with forage distributed in layers that are, ideally, no more than six inches thick to achieve good packing densities. Watch this video for more tips and information on creating a drive-over pile.
5. Safety first.
Always safely construct silage piles. That means piles and bunkers should never be filled higher than unloading equipment can safely reach. Managing silage pile dimensions sets you up for safe feed-out later.
Check out the Silage Safety Handbook for practical advice on building, maintaining, and feeding out silage bunkers and piles, along with other important silage safety information.
For more tips on silage pile construction, watch the video of the presentation on silage pile management during the 2020 Silage for Beef Cattle Conference, visit qualitysilage.com, or follow Lallemand Animal Nutrition’s Quality Silage Experts on Facebook.
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