Putting silage and grain underground

Explore your options this spring

Tablelands Telegraph - October 2021

Phil Cranney, Senior Land Services Officer, Pastures

Make hay while the sun shines, so the saying goes. This spring, with the positive forecast for above median rainfall, the saying should be changed to “make silage when the sun shines only 4-6 days at a time”.

Depending on the weather conditions, quantity, and type of fodder, you only need 1-3 days of wilting, (ideally less than 48hrs) in the field before storage at 30-35% dry matter. This gives you a narrow window of 3-5 days for mowing, wilting, raking, baling and storage.

Looking at the AFIA hay report of June 2019, pasture hay was being quoted at $400-$500/tonne, cereal hay at $500-$650/tonne and Lucerne hay at $650-$700/tonne. Therefore, it is not hard to see how valuable excellent quality silage can be in the next drought to keep your core breeding mob productive.

Given the predicted rise in mouse numbers on the horizon, putting silage and grain underground becomes a much more attractive option.

Some key considerations before using underground pits for storing fodder or grain are:

  • Choose a dry, well drained site
  • Preferably a site with little to no rocks
  • A silage pit should be close to the fodder paddock cut and close to the feed out (confined feeding) area to minimise transport costs
  • Consider labour, silage machinery, and grain handling equipment needs before deciding underground pits are suitable for your operation
  • Grain pits should be no bigger than your current grain storage capacity
  • Using a layer of straw on top of the plastic can help with opening

Most people can find excuses for not putting quality fodder away in above average rainfall years. However, there is just one question we should ask ourselves: How much will you be prepared to pay for feed in the next drought when the livestock have nearly doubled in price?

Pick a (feed cost) number that is realistic and compare it to the cost of storing excess feed. Do not forget the major fringe benefit of making your own silage is knowing what is in it.

Check out these resources –

  • NSW DPI – 10 key steps to successful silage
  • NSW LLS – Grain storage webinars from 2020

Related news

Related information