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Aug 28, 2020

What can your silage clamps tell you?

Aug 28, 2020

Lallemand Animal Nutrition’s Lientjie Colahan suggests the next few months can tell you a great deal about the success of this silage season and give some real improvement opportunities for next year if you act now.

With the 2020 silage-making season drawing to a close, now is the time to reflect on how successful it was and where changes and improvements can be made moving forward to increase the contribution from forage, to allow feed cost savings and improve profitability.

Many of the answers will be found by looking closely and critically at your silage clamps.


The starting point to producing more from forage, is to make more, high quality feed.  So the first thing to do is a stock take of all forages produced – grass, maize and wholecrop.  How much silage is in the clamps and how does this compare to your targets?  How many kilograms of dry matter can you feed per cow per day?

You should be targeting for a minimum of 12kg and every extra kilo dry matter fed will produce two more litres, allowing a saving of a kilo of concentrates.

If you are going to go through the winter with less than 12kgDM/day then start thinking now about the cost benefit of increasing forage production.


Have you produced the high quality silage, consistent to feed allowing you to drive production?  The analysis can reveal a great deal and show where you can improve.  Looking specifically now at grass silage analysis:

Look at the ME content.  You should be able to achieve an average of 11.5 MJ/kgDM with grass silage with no more than 1MJ variation between cuts.  A greater variation will impact on yields and is a result of the cutting interval being too long.  Moving to the Opticut system will improve energy content without compromising yield. (click here to download our  Opticut guide)

What about dry matter?  if you want a dry matter of 30-35% to maximise intake potential while minimising losses due to poor compaction.  If grass silage is too dry, consider how many times it was moved between mowing up and picking up.  Many crops need less tedding than people think.

Next look at NDF which should be as close to 45% as possible.  If NDF is higher then the grass was probably too mature when harvested and will be less digestible.

Reviewing your analysis will give some good steers for improving your silage making process to increase production from forage.  Pre-cut testing should be a key part of your management.


Look at the clamp face.  How much silage waste is there?  A layer of waste on the top and shoulders is a clear sign of poor sheeting and inadequate weighting down.  You don’t have to accept this waste so think about how you could sheet down better.

How tight is the face?  If you can easily push your finger into the face then the crop was not consolidated enough and you will see moulds and the crop heating up.

Are there random hot spots?  Heating silage is another sign of poor consolidation.

Wasted silage is a huge cost and reduces how much gets fed so plan to reduce waste next year through a better silage-making approach.


As soon as a clamp is opened you introduce air which activates yeasts and moulds leading to wastage and heating.  Silage clamp heating and waste can be significantly reduced by following the steps below:

  1. Use a specific Lallemand inoculant, containing a combination of bacteria for improved clamp stability
  2. Seal the clamp well including the walls with a proven oxygen barrier such as Silostop
  3. Maintaining a clean tight clamp face using a block cutter or equivalent, only moving the sheet back far enough for the silage you will use.
  4. Check clamp regularly for sheet damage, where damage has occurred re-seal with oxygen barrier patch tape.

If you see face waste and heating, what changes can be made to reduce the problems next year?


Armed with your answers to these questions and an honest assessment of your clamps you have identified some areas where better management will boost production from forage.  So start planning now for a better 2021 season.

CLICK HERE for  more information on our range of forage inoculants