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Pioneer Nutrition Experts Provide Bunker Management Considerations


Adequate packing, good covering and use of inoculants improve silages in storage

DES MOINES, Iowa.- Bunker management is key to achieving the highest quality silage, according to livestock nutrition experts with Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business. Producers should pack bunkers densely, cover with plastic and use inoculants to maintain and enhance the quality of silages in storage. Fill as fast as possible while maintaining adequate packing, say Pioneer experts.

“The more oxygen excluded, the better,” says Dann Bolinger, Pioneer dairy specialist in Michigan. “Producers should get about 800 to 1,000 pounds of tractor weight per ton per hour on the bunker to keep oxygen out.”

Bolinger suggests packing continuously, not waiting for the next load. When it gets difficult to keep up with the speed of harvest, try slowing down or have more bunkers available.

“With custom harvesters and the increased size of equipment, it can become a challenge to get the bunker packed densely,” Bolinger says. “It isn’t ideal, but producers can try either slowing harvest or filling more than one bunker at a time. Make sure the bunker is packed well. Poor packing density slows the ensiling process and increases the potential for spoilage.”

Another important consideration is covering the bunker. Cover the bunker with plastic and a weight system, such as tire sidewalls.

“If producers don’t cover the bunker with plastic, the top 3 feet of forage will act as the covering,” Bolinger says. “At least 50 percent of forage dry matter can be lost in those top 3 feet, so consider covering to avoid potential spoilage.”

Inoculants are the best way to help preserve nutrients and improve the value of every bite. Pioneer offers inoculants for corn, alfalfa, grass silage and high-moisture grain. With a library of more than 25,000 strains of bacteria, Pioneer microbial researchers develop inoculants with carefully selected, unique, proprietary strains of bacteria to help producers get more from every acre fed to animals.

Ways to monitor the bunker after packing include utilizing infrared photography and density probes. These two tools provide practical, convenient and quick methods to determine density levels. Pioneer forage specialists can use infrared cameras to depict hot spots in the bunker feedout face. This offers insight into pockets of aerobically unstable feed that are often the result of inadequately compacted forage.

The Pioneer density probe is a tool for measuring actual silage density from the feedout face of a bunker, pile or bag. The probe is used to drill and sample a core of silage of known volume. The weight and dry matter content of the silage translate into pounds of dry matter per cubic foot within the storage. The minimum desired density for hay crop silages should be 14 to 15 pounds of dry matter per cubic foot. A goal for corn silage is 17 to 18 pounds. The denser a bunker, the less dry matter loss should occur.

“There isn’t much a producer can do to change the density once it’s been packed, but measuring provides a way to plan for next season’s packing,” Bolinger says. “Contact your local Pioneer sales professional for more information on density probes.”


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