How could silage bales cost less than silage stack/pit silage on this scale? To find out how, we caught up with Tim Ridgen, the general manager of Ellesmere Agricultural who is contract feeding for Rakaia Island Dairies, one of the larger privately owned dairy farms in the South Island, owned by the Turner Brothers, and combined with Woodstock Farms they're wintering a total of 10,600 cows.
As Tim reports that when you take a wholistic look at the harvesting and feeding program of grass silage, rather than just the harvesting and ensiling process, "the way we do our square bales costs us less per Kg/DM than pit silage from standing grass to the consumed silage" so how does that work? We were intrigued too!
When you're feeding 100 tons per day per feeder wagon in the height of the season, you better be doing something right, because even only a small percentage of waste can substantially add up over a winter, and as Tim puts it, "everything you measure on this farm has the decimal point shifted one point to the right, when compared to most farms" this is anything from costs, waste, labour, fuel, maintenance, etc "so we've got to do our homework accurately and have nothing but the best performing equipment".
One thing we noticed very clearly was how
clean the loading site and silage stack was
compared to a traditional chopped silage stack.
One of the secrets to Tim's methodology is to tightly stack square bales into blocks of 100 bales, and cover each stack just like a chopped silage stack, rather than individually wrap each bale.
This provides a substantial list of benefits compared to the traditional silage stacking/pit silage methods:
- Bales are compressed equally by the baler and you're not reliant on the compactor drivers skill to ensure a traditional stack is packed correctly.
- Bales are packed tighter than a silage stack can ever be packed, eliminating air from the silage, ensuring better quality and performing feed.
- Capital equipment outlay and maintenance is substantially reduced. The equipment that required is a tractor, mower, rake, baler, bale collector/stacker, and a telehandler.
- Waste from stacking a pit or silage stack is eliminated, by using bales.
- There is no waste at the loading site - Tim reports this is where the biggest savings come from. Most operators can take bales out of a stack without spilling it, driving over it, when loading a wagon, there's no dirt including in the wagon from a bad operator scraping the ground to get that last bit of silage, nor the waste on the floor or sides of a pit. "it's incredible how much this equates to in waste".
- An expensive silage shear, that requires frequent sharpening is not required to pull the silage from the stack, and a smooth sealed face to the stack is retained, that is sealed to prevent spoilage, eliminating secondary fermentation.
- There's no need for costly concrete bunkers for storage, to reduce waste, and the risk of running out of space in the bunker. Stacks can be positioned around the farm to reduce travelling during feedout.
Rakaia Island and Tim Ridgen utilise the Roberston multi-feeders, and have used them for 13-14 years on their farms and love them for their low maintenance and reliable feeding of square bales, fodder beet and the maize silage they have in a traditional stack.
Take a look at this video to see what Tim, and his operator have to say about the Mega Comby XL