Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Silage  (Read 4186 times)

Smashy and gang

  • Joined Apr 2011
« on: May 24, 2011, 10:29:58 pm »
We have use of a large field for our sheep and endeavour to keep them in part of it using an electric fence, which we move every couple of weeks.  There's too much grass for the sheep to eat fresh so I was thinking of making either hay or silage for the winter months.  Hay seems to need more time input than silage - but would any of you wonderful people out there in Sheepland have any suggestions as to which and why?  Many thanks....


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Silage
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2011, 12:39:13 am »
Well I can give you a farmer's viewpoint but others on here are better placed to talk about silage vs hay from a smallholder perspective.

Hay - needs 3-4 days good drying weather.  Needs more drying than silage and quite a bit of expertise to make good hay.  Bales are lighter than silage and much easier to handle.  Hay is also more versatile to use.

Silage - some farms do make it within hours but we usually cut one day and bale the next.  We like it as dry as possible and have our own hay-bob so we'll give it a couple of woofles to help it dry.  It is much more forgiving than hay; if it's dried a bit, doesn't have an soil in it, is wrapped very soon after baling and you don't puncture the bag then it should be ok.  The bales can only be moved using special equipment (so you don't puncture the bag before you are ready to use the silage.)  Once opened, the silage will become less appetising very quickly.  Cattle need to eat it up within a couple of days really, sheep will probably continue to munch on at it for 3 or even 4 days.  Beyond that nothing much (except a Fell pony, perhaps) will touch it.  You have to dispose of the used wrap (which will smell like cat wee for some reason.)

The standard large round bales of silage will feed approx 22 housed suckler cows for 24 hours, or 50 hill sheep on the hill for 4 days.  Smashy I think you only have a very few sheep so you will need other smallholders to tell you how to use silage for small numbers.  You could always make it and sell the bales in the winter, or swap them for hay.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Silage
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2011, 01:47:56 am »
There is a third option which is haylage which as far as I can make out is what you make when you run out of good weather when making hay.  We only ever make hay, because of the dangers of ?listeriosis from badly made or punctured silage and because we have the equipment to make hay but not to wrap silage or haylage.
Where we are it takes 5 good days to make hay, which we don't always get, but because we have our own equipment and don't have to rely on a contractor we can still make good hay even if it's been rained on.  If it's going to get wet, it's better to happen at the beginning than at the end.
If you suffer from High Blood Pressure then don't make hay - it's the most stressful time of year  ;D  However, if you are prepared to learn the skill, and be prepared for the occasional year when you lose the crop, then hay seems a far more satisfactory and easily used crop - I love the smell of it  :yum:
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

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  • Joined Jan 2009
  • Pen Llyn
    • Viable Self
Re: Silage
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2011, 10:06:49 am »
If you suffer from High Blood Pressure then don't make hay - it's the most stressful time of year  ;D

Agree with that.

Haylage is made in exactly the same way as silage, but is dried more before baling. It will also keep longer than silage once the bale is opened due to its higher dry matter levels. Sheep will do well on all three types of forage - so long as they are all equally well made. Having said that, because silage and haylage are usually cut when the grass is younger, nutritionally it is often superior to hay.
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  • Joined Apr 2011
  • lymington hampshire
Re: Silage
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2011, 12:38:48 pm »
Totally agree
My lovely easy going hubby becomes psycho- man when he's making hay


  • Joined May 2011
Re: Silage
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2011, 02:23:09 pm »
I would say sheep don't do as well on silage and if you have the storage and the weather to make it, they do much better on hay.


  • Joined Jul 2010
  • North Yorkshire
Re: Silage
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2011, 05:18:01 pm »
Totally agree
My lovely easy going hubby becomes psycho- man when he's making hay

 :D :D :D


  • Guest
Re: Silage
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2011, 09:07:16 am »
We fed our sheep on haylage this winter because it was cheaper than hay despite being a lot more convenient and more nutritious.  We're going to have another awful year for hay around here so I've just bought 900 worth for us and our neighbour.  It keeps really well so if I'm wrong I'll just use it later in the winter



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