The process of baling becomes more efficient with the use of silage plastic.
As you probably already know, silage plastics are designed to stretch over the top of a standing bale. The purpose of this is to retard spoilage and maintain feed quality through the winter or wet periods.
Silage plastics are very tough, but if correctly used, they will last for several years before being replaced. This makes them economical to use, as they can be left on bales for several years between purchases. The longer you leave your silage plastic on, the better, as this means that it won’t be exposed to UV degradation.
If you are at all concerned about the quality of your haylage or grass clippings bales, then make sure to buy a few rolls of Silage Plastic. This is available in different thicknesses and grades. The black ones will be 100% opaque and give the best protection from sunlight, UV degradation and loss of feed value.
You can also get green coloured silage plastic, which is not opaque. This will allow some sunlight in, keeping the feed warmer and damp down the bale if it starts to heat up too much.
I would only recommend using the green silage plastic when stacking haylage bales in an open crop like maize or stacking grass clippings in an open paddock.
Where to use Silage Plastic
Anywhere that haylage, maize, grass clippings or other forages are normally stored will benefit from using black soil/silage plastic around the bale. Some people like to cut out the centre of the bale and place black plastic around this, and this can help damp down hot spots inside the bale and decrease spoilage rates.
It is also possible to use the silage plastic between two adjacent bales, but make sure that you overlap it at least 100mm, or you will lose some protection from sunlight, UV degradation and heat.
If you make up your bales with a baler, it is also possible to use the plastics as a top layer over the bale, but this only works if the baler has a horizontal knotter.
When to remove silage plastics from haylage or grass clippings bales
I would recommend removing silage plastics from haylage bales stored on the ground about three months before feeding. This will give them plenty of time to compost down and lose most of their bulk, with the added advantage that it won’t be so difficult to cut through them when you come to feed out your forages during winter or early spring.
If you are stacking haylage bales on the ground in a crop like maize, I will leave the silage plastics on until much closer to feeding time. The reason for this is that when your second layer of bales is ready to come off, the first layer will still have a lot of bulk in it and won’t be as easy to move around as it would if the plastic had been removed.
Then again, if you are stacking haylage bales on pallets or in a barn, leave the plastics on until you are ready to start feeding out your haylage. This will ensure that the bale remains moist and is not exposed to too much oxygen, leading to spontaneous combustion.