Ask the Silage Dr: Plastic Covers

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Q. Are plastic covers worth the cost?

A. As long as you use good quality plastic, yes! Covering a silage bunker or pile can help save producers the expenses associated with dry matter (DM) and nutrient losses and issues due to feeding silage spoilage.

The average cost of a good quality plastic covering can range from $0.115 to $0.120 per square foot. On the other hand, preventing just 10 percent in additional DM losses can save producers approximately $44,000 a year.1

In addition to reducing losses from silage shrink, the resulting silage is generally of higher nutritional and hygienic quality, which helps cattle perform better and reduces health issues.

To get the most of your investment in covering and sealing, don"t skimp on plastic quality when purchasing a cover. You"ll return that expense in improved DM recovery and silage quality. Use a plastic that is at least five millimeters thick and dual layer — black inner and white outer — to resist deterioration. You may also want to consider using an oxygen barrier plastic film. Be sure there is sufficient weight to keep plastic in place and prevent air infiltration, and don"t forget to inspect the cover on a regular basis and repair any damage immediately.

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1 Based on 1,000 cows consuming 20 lb DM/day, for 3,650 tons of silage a year with silage valued at $120 per ton on a DM basis.