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Round Bale Silage

Justin McCullough
Decision Case Study
Agroecology Internship 2003

The Situation: A young farmer is milking a small dairy heard in western Pennsylvania. He has limited funds for building structures and does not have room on his farm property to build silos or other kinds of forage storage facilities. He has concerns about twisted stomach that has been occurring in some of the neighbor’s cattle. Twisted stomach can be caused by lack of rumen stimulation or rumen buffers. Today’s grain feeds contain mostly shelled corn and other ground up grain products and the silage is cut into small pieces that do not provide much rumen stimulation or buffers. Longer pieces of forage in the silage may provide the stimulation needed to prevent twisted stomach. He has all the necessary hay making equipment including discbine, tedder, and a silage special round baler, and a forage harvester. He also has two 60’ Harvestor Silos that he uses for corn silage. His employees include a 17 year old high school student who helps him with the milking and during the summer months. During the summer months he is available to do most farm work and is quite capable in the tractor seat. Also available to him is his retired neighbor who helps him during busy times with field work and is also able to do most tractor operations, but is getting up in age and can’t do strenuous labor and can’t stay out in the heat for long periods of time. He is considering whether to fill a silage bag or to purchase an inexpensive 3-point bale wrapper and make round bale silage for his cattle, or any other options that his local extension agent may suggest.

The Options: Two of the options being considered use different pieces of machinery and have different storage and forage texture aspects. Silage bags require relatively large flat areas to be placed. The machinery involved include a discbine, forage harvester, at least two forage wagons, and a bagger machine. This option will require at least three tractors all of which need to be in the 80-100 horsepower range.

Making round bale silage or balage requires much of the equipment the farmer already has. The only thing that he will need to purchase will be a bale wrapper which costs $8000 new or much less money for a used one. The other equipment needed for the process he already has: a discbine, tedder, and a silage special round baler. The wrapped round bales can be stored almost anywhere and are transported very easily by a skid loader or a bucket tractor with a bale spear on the loader.

The Question: It is now the first of the year and the farmer is considering what he should do for the next spring season? What do you think: should he go with the silage bags or with the round bale silage?