Ask the Silage Dr.: Silage packing density

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Q. I"m switching to a drive-over pile for my silage this year. How do I ensure proper packing density?

A. A dense silage structure is the first step towards ensuring good fermentation that will minimize nutrient and dry matter (DM) losses. A good packing density for any silage structure will be a minimum of 15 pounds DM per cubic foot. The higher the packing density, the lower the shrink loss.

Achieving higher packing density starts in the field. First, aim for a chop length that is small enough to be easily compacted but long enough to meet your feeding objectives.

Second, pay attention to the forage maturity and DM content as you"re harvesting. Forage that"s too wet can be prone to seepage and butyric fermentation. On the other hand, forage that"s too dry is difficult to compact and more likely to suffer aerobic spoilage from yeasts and molds, which can affect feedout stability.

To battle these challenges, consider adding an inoculant that will help rapidly lower the forage pH and inhibit aerobic microbes. The strain Pediococcus pentosaceus 12455 provides fast and efficient fermentation upfront, which can help improve DM recovery. Incorporating Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 will help reduce yeast activity and spoilage during feedout. For maximum protection, combine these two types of inoculants with Biotal® Buchneri 500.

Achieving density also requires weight. Estimate the amount of packing weight required (in lbs) by multiplying the estimated tons of crop delivered in an hour by 800. Weights can be added directly to the front of the tractor or the three-point hitch.

For more information about packing density, visit the Storage and Handling Management section of or the check out the University of Wisconsin packing density calculator.

I hope this information helps.



The Silage Dr.


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