Focus on critical control points
Targeted focus on just four Critical Control Points (CCP), can significantly enhance yield, fermentation, nutrient preservation and overall quality of haylage.
CCP 1: Be aware of maturity
With advancing alfalfa maturity, yield increases but digestibility decreases. It is important to minimise the indigestible tons that are harvested, hauled, stored and fed in order to improve overall efficiency. In addition, make sure you decrease manure load by feeding forages harvested at the optimal maturity.
CCP 2: Stay below 65% moisture
Regardless of maturity, the single most important criterion for successfully ensiling haylage is moisture. At 65% moisture or higher (≤ 35% DM), we greatly increase the risk of formation of butyric acid. Butyric acid is the primary indicator that haylage has gone through ‘Clostridic fermentation’, leading to a reduction in sugar, elevation in pH, degradation of protein, increase in dry matter loss, ‘off’ odours, and poor feed out performance with potential health effects when fed to high-producing dairy cows. The excessive moisture could be inherent to the crop and environmental rewetting conditions at harvest, such as rain or heavy dew. It is important to:
- avoid deep windrows
- be aware of wilting time
- aim for a moisture content of 60% (40% DM), with a narrow ideal range of 58-62% (38-42% DM). Realistically we can expect moisture to stay between 55-65% (35-45% DM) under most conditions and significantly improve the likelihood of avoiding Clostridic fermentation.