Balage - Making Silage - Equipment

Equipment

Forage harvesters collect and chop the plant material, and deposit it in trucks or wagons. These forage harvesters can be either tractor-drawn or self-propelled. Harvesters blow the silage into the wagon via a chute at the rear or side of the machine. Silage may also be emptied into a bagger, which puts the silage into a large plastic bag that is laid out on the ground.

In North America, Australia, northwestern Europe, and frequently in New Zealand, silage is placed in large heaps on the ground and rolled by tractor to push out the air, then wrapped in plastic covers held down by reused tires or tire ring walls.

In New Zealand and Northern Europe, the silo or "pit" is often a bunker built into the side of a bank, usually made out of concrete or old wooden railroad ties (railway sleepers). The chopped grass can then be dumped in at the top, to be drawn from the bottom in winter. This requires considerable effort to compress the stack in the silo to cure it properly. Again, the pit is covered with plastic sheet and weighed down with tire weights.

In an alternative method, the cut vegetation is baled, making balage (North America) or silage bales (UK). The grass or other forage is cut and partly dried until it contains 30–40% moisture (much drier than bulk silage, but too damp to be stored as dry hay). It is then made into large bales which are wrapped tightly in plastic to exclude air. The plastic may wrap the whole of each cylindrical or cuboid bale, or be wrapped around only the curved sides of a cylindrical bale, leaving the ends uncovered. In this case, the bales are placed tightly end to end on the ground, making a long continuous "sausage" of silage, often at the side of a field. The wrapping may be performed by a bale wrapper, while the baled silage is handled using a bale handler or a front-loader, either impaling the bale on a flap, or by using a special grab. The flaps do not hole the bales.

In the UK, baled silage is most often made in round bales about 4 feet by 4 feet, individually wrapped with four to six layers of "bale wrap plastic" (black, white or green 25 micrometre stretch film). The dry matter can vary a lot but can be from about 20% dry matter upwards. The continuous "sausage" referred to above is made with a special machine which wraps the bales as they are pushed through a rotating hoop which applies the bale wrap to the outside of the bales (round or square) in a continuous wrap. The machine places the bales on the ground after wrapping by moving forward slowly during the wrapping process (search for "tube liner" various makes).

Haylage is a name for high dry matter silage of around 45% to 75%. Horse haylage is usually 55% to 75% dry matter, made in small bales or larger bales. Handling of wrapped bales is most often with some type of gripper that squeezes the plastic-covered bale between two metal parts to avoid puncturing the plastic. Simple fixed versions are available for round bales which are made of two shaped pipes or tubes spaced apart to slide under the sides of the bale, but when lifted will not let it slip through. Often used on the tractor rear three-point linkage, they incorporate a trip tipping mechanism which can flip the bales over on to the flat side/end for storage on the thickest plastic layers.

Read more about this topic:  Balage, Making Silage

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