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How To Produce Haylage

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Haylage is an anaerobic method of curing forage (cereal stover and straws and grass hay) for later use that allows forage producers to harvest the forage at a time when the energy is at its highest.

If producers manage the cutting and storage of haylage properly, they will significantly reduce the amount of high-priced purchased feed that is needed. It is all about money.

Haylage is made as chopped hay silage (hence the name “haylage”), or as baled silage (or “baleage”).

Both involve the packing of plant material into plastic — as air tight as possible to avoid spoilage — and allowing it to ferment before feeding it to livestock.

Haylage is cut with the same equipment as hay; however, hay is dried to 18% moisture or less, and haylage is dried to 40 to 60% moisture.

Haylage is baled like hay. The baler needs to have some modification to prevent the wet (40% to 60% moisture) forage from wrapping around the main roller in the baler.

The tightly packed roll of hay needs to be wrapped to cut off all air from the bale so that it will go through the ensiling process. Once a roll is baled, it needs to be wrapped with plastic and the air cut-off in four to six hours.

The roll will begin to excessively heat if more time elapses before wrapping. This can cause the degradation of both energy and protein if the haylage continues to heat to higher temperatures.

Once the haylage is wrapped, the pH is roughly 6.0 and the temperature will be in the 70 degrees Fahrenheit range.

On day two, fermentation begins and heating slows from the peak of around 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH drops to as low as 5.0.

On the third day, lactic acid begins to be produced, which is important in continuing to decrease the pH to as low as 4.0 to 4.2.

When the haylage drops to this pH, the product is becoming stable. It takes anywhere from eight to 21 days for haylage to become stable and the temperature to drop to an ambient temperature.

You need specialised haylage wrapping equipment or plastic to wrap the haylage and the labour to dispose of the plastic after feeding.

A hay wrapping equipment is available at the National Livestock Resources Research Institute located at Nakyesasa, Busukuma sub-county in Wakiso district or from some farmers.

In most cases, it takes an extra person to wrap the hay on the day of baling. These are all extra costs involved with making haylage.

You must make sure that you are getting something for your time, effort and money. What you need is the extra energy and the additional crude protein that can be achieved through making haylage.

This extra energy and protein is achieved by cutting the forage at a more ideal time (42 days or less) and fertilising at a level that will give you the yield and protein content that you need to offset the additional cost of producing haylage.

If you do not fertilise enough and cut the forage at the correct time, the haylage will need supplemental feed just like most of the hay produced.

Manual haylage production

Haylage can be produced in the same way as silage using plastic tube silo or pit silo method. The dry grass, cereal straw or stover is chopped thoroughly and mixed with diluted molasses (1 of part molasses mixed with 2 parts of water).

A farmer can use plastic drums for storing the haylage. Whichever way you take, compacting must be done well and thoroughly to expel as much air as possible and to maintain the condition as is without allowing air in.

Challenges in production

A problem that some people have in wrapping their haylage is not applying enough plastic on the rolls to keep the air from being able to come into the tube of rolls or into the individually wrapped rolls. This is an anaerobic method of curing forage.

If enough plastic is not put on the haylage to keep the air out the forage, it will begin to heat and the pH will not go down enough to make the forage ensile properly.

Haylage utilisation

Haylage can bring great rewards, such as not having to feed supplement. That would be both a cost and labour savings.

However, it can be the costliest hay/dry matter you have ever dealt with if not managed properly. The rewards are big and the losses are bigger.

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