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Published July 15, 2013, 11:10 AM

Minimizing forage storage loss

Vital nutrients can be lost if producers do not store their forages correctly, according to Karla Hernandez, South Dakota State University Extension forages field specialist.

BROOKINGS, S.D. — Vital nutrients can be lost if producers do not store their forages correctly, according to Karla Hernandez, South Dakota State University Extension forages field specialist.

“They need to find ways to prevent shrink losses in their bunkers and storage systems,” Hernandez says. “Stored forages provide the essential nutrients for livestock when pastures are inadequate and are consistent feed supplies for dairies, sheep flocks, cow-calf producers and beef feedlots.”

Interestingly, Hernandez says most nutrient loss occurs during storage for silage and harvest for hay.

“Hay storage losses are around 5 percent for hay harvested at 15 percent moisture and stored under dry conditions. Forage quality tends to decrease if hay is baled above 20 percent moisture,” she says.

Losses of dry matter and nutrients tend to increase when hay moisture is above 20 percent.

“Each mechanism in forage-preservation process, such as mowing, ranking, chopping, baling, storing and unloading, will probably cause loss of a forage dry matter,” Hernandez says. “Some losses are either mechanical or biological.”

She says when it comes to hay-making, most of the losses come from mechanical or weather damage, whereas, for silage-making, most losses will occur at storage and feed out stages.

“In general, round bales are usually subject to greater losses than small rectangular bales, because they tend to remain outside with no protection between baling and feeding,” she says.

Other aspects Hernandez encourages growers to take into consideration when determining the storage quality of the forage include: the presence of respiration (aerobic conditions) and microbial activity, maillard reactions (nonenzymatic browning), inside storage, outside storage and stack arrangement.

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