Making fescue baleage at different particle sizes

Alvaro Garcia

Festuca grasses are perennial and bisexual plants that mostly spread through rhizomes and are popular for pasture and hay. These grasses are of easy establishment outcompeting other plants and persisting over several years. Fescues can be conserved as baled silage particularly in small to middle-size livestock operations.

Similar best management practices used for baled hay and chopped silages can also be utilized for fescue with some minor adjustments. Some livestock producers choose higher moisture by harvesting and wilting earlier in the plant growth cycle, which increases nutrient content and digestibility, while reducing the risk of rain losses in the field.

One of the concerns at higher moisture levels though is the risk of butyric fermentation, result of the proliferation of clostridia in the ensiled material. When allowing fescue plants to mature there is also an increase in long, harder stems which have a negative effect on lactic acid production, since lactobacillus cannot easily access the plant sugars inside the stems.

Modern balers reduce this problem by incorporating cutting devices that chop the forage into smaller particles allowing for a greater cut surface area for lactobacilli colonization. This is also important since smaller particles allow not only for increased release of plant sugars but also an easier and even mixing into the TMR.

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