AMES, Iowa – Wet conditions have created significant challenges this year for cattle producers who want to put up hay for winter forage needs. Shorter days and cooler fall temperatures add to the challenge of putting up dry hay.
According to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach specialists, producers who still need to put up hay this fall may want to consider making baleage as an option for dealing with cold and wet weather conditions. Denise Schwab, extension beef specialist, Brian Dougherty, extension ag engineer, and Brian Lang, extension field agronomists, provide directions on making high quality baleage in an Iowa Beef Center article published Nov. 1.
Making baleage is a method of preserving forage where bales are made at a higher moisture content than dry hay and then sealed in plastic wrap for storage. The high moisture level and airtight environment causes the forage to ferment.
The time needed to cure forage for baleage is drastically reduced compared to production of dry hay, thus reducing the impacts of weather on harvest. This is a significant advantage when trying to harvest forages in conditions that are poor for making dry hay.
The specialists say that producers may be able to use existing equipment for the production and feeding of baleage. One question that often comes up is whether or not a conventional baler can be used for making baleage. The answer is that it depends on the baler. Some newer balers can achieve sufficient bale density for making quality baleage. It is best to consult with the equipment manufacturer if you have specific questions about using your baler for making baleage.
The next equipment decision a producer needs to make is how to wrap the bales in plastic. Bales can be wrapped individually on a bale wrapping table or they can be wrapped in-line with a ‘tube’ wrapper. A third option is to place the bales into individual bags that can be sealed by hand.
The entire article, Baleage Is an Option for Dealing with Wet Fall Harvest Conditions, includes details on making baleage, equipment needs and tips from the specialists for making high quality baleage and feeding considerations. It is posted on the Iowa Beef Center website. For additional information see the Iowa Beef Center publication "Making the Switch to Baleage."