Combining the bunker with the bale

Peter van Rooijen runs a successful dairy farm near Vothen in the fertile Utrecht region of The Netherlands. Working with his son Ewout, they manage a herd of 150+ Fresian Holsteins supplying milk to a large national milk processor.

“This part of The Netherlands is an ideal region for dairy farming” says Peter. “Silage crops grow well here as the soil is good. We benefit from strong yields so, in addition to the herd being able to graze for many months, we can harvest high quality grass and maize for silage. Our cows are turned out from 1st April where they graze for 8 hours before being fed a ration.” He continues “Last year (2018) however, the cows had to be brought in for 6 weeks during the worse weeks of the drought period that affected Northern Europe. Luckily we had sufficient fodder remaining from the previous year to get through.”

Peter makes the majority of his silage in the bunker however he also utilises the baled silage format to provide flexibility both during the silage harvest and then later at feed-out. While the first cut is ensiled in the clamp, the later cuts are ensiled in bales with the latter cuts being used to feed the dry cows on farm. As bales are highly portable, they can be transported easily to livestock in the field.

 

 

When it comes to silage films, Peter has always left it to his regular contractor Henk De Heus to select the best film for the job. With long, positive experience of the Silotite range, Henk opted in recent years to use the FILM&FILM (F&F) wrapping system- a combination of SilotitePro next generation balewrap and Baletite, a baler film that replaces traditional netwrap. Henk applies 6 layers of SilotitePro 750mm x 20um stretchfilm along with 3.5 layers of Baletite 1380mm x 20um baler film to all silage bales.

 

Peter has noticed a significant difference with F&F silage bales saying “Even with poorer quality grass there is no mould. The air barrier provided by the extra Baletite layers around the bale circumference ensures an effective ensiling process that makes a real difference to the fodder quality.”

 

 

“Together Baletite and SilotitePro offer excellent protection particularly with stemmy crops and also with heavy bales.” Peter continued. “Importantly, the bales handle well with the film not sustaining any damage from the grab when bales were moved.”

“I also think Baletite is safer for the cows. I noticed that if a cow manages to eat a piece of film they will spit it out. If a cow eats netwrap they often swallow it.”

When it comes to bale opening, Peter finds F&F bales easier to open and more convenient. Both SilotitePro and Baletite can be cut away quickly and then simply folded together and placed in the same recycling bin. There is no need for Peter to separate and segregate the films for recycling as with netwrap and this has saved time and effort. Additionally the bales have been easier to open in the winter months because the silage cannot become stuck in the baler film on frosty mornings like it does in netwrap.

The flexibility of baled silage also proved itself in early 2019. The severe drought of 2018 impacted the quality of the grass and maize crops harvested so, Peter opened the clamps in March 2018 and combined the lesser quality grass silage and maize silage with straw to create mixed ration bales for his dry cows. This was the first time Peter made this type of bale but he found that combing the bunker with the bale helped him make the best use of the drought affected crops. The F&F bales enabled Peter to prepare a balanced ration with no heating up.

Overall Peter has found the F&F wrapping system to be a useful tool in the silaging process. “Once you use Baletite you never go back. I like the flexibility of baled silage which works well in combination with the bunker.” says Peter.

 

Film & film wrapping proves popular in The Netherlands

Henk De Haus works alongside his father and brother in a progressive family business that provides a range of agricultural contracting services in the Utrecht area of The Netherlands.

The business specialises in silage, making up to 14000 bales annually, and has invested in advanced balewrapping machinery for the production of both round and square bales in order to service their dairy, beef and equine customers.

One such investment was the McHale Fusion 3 Plus, an integrated combi-wrapper that can apply Baletite baler film to bind a bale as well as netwrap.

“We chose the McHale Fusion 3 Plus for a number of reasons.” says Henk. “In addition to its overall reliability, and its large wheels that reduce soil compaction, the option to use Baletite to secure a bale before it is wrapped made sense to us.”

“With the circumference of a bale traditionally the least protected area we believed Baletite would make a real difference to baled silage in terms of mould reduction on the largest surface.”

Having used the Silotite stretchfilm range for several years, Henk was aware of the Baletite product – a stiff baler film that compresses a bale significantly during the binding process. In doing so, it reduces the opportunity for air ingress while providing additional surface protection. When used in combination with SilotitePro next generation balewrap, both films form the FILM&FILM (F&F) wrapping system.

Four years on, F&F wrapping has been widely adopted across the De Haus customer base not only because it it reduces forage waste but also because of the convenience it offers post use. As Baletite is made from low density polythene it can be recycled alongside SilotitePro balewrap thereby removing the need to separate and segregate the films for recycling.

F&F bales have also proved popular with farmers because they are quick and easy to open. Whether opening manually or with a sheargrab, the process is quick and easy as both films peel smoothly from the bale. Additionally, on cold winter mornings, no silage freezes to Baletite as it does with netwrap.

When wrapping F&F bales, Henk applies 3.5 layers of Baletite 1380mm x 20um to a bale followed by 6 layers of SilotitePro 1950mm x 20um stretchfilm.

Henk’s experience is that once farmers see the result of FILM&FILM wrapping, they don’t return to netwrapped bales. Most of his customers have converted to F&F balewrapping – a fact backed up by the wrapping statistics recorded on the McHale Fusion 3 Plus’ control panel which shows that 9568 bales had been bound using Baletite (at the time of writing) as opposed to just 545 bound with netwrap.

From the contractors perspective, F&F wrapping has a lot to offer. The longer film reels means Henk can stay in the cab longer as fewer reel changes are necessary. The additional film layers round the centre of the bales makes them easier to handle and less prone to damage. But, importantly, customer feedback is very positive: they get better quality silage with significantly reduced forage waste.

Wrapped bale bonanza in the north-west

North-West contractor Steve Jones of Hoof Trimming Ltd, has been working flat out making and wrapping round silage bales across Shropshire and Cheshire this summer – working every day the past two weeks.

“This year and last year are like comparing chalk and cheese,” says Steve. “After good first cuts, this time last year baling had come to a standstill for three months, because of the drought. This year, the grass has just kept on growing and growing. We usually make about 10 bales an acre, but this week on heavy second cuts we are easily doing 14 bales.

“Last year we didn’t use all the wrap we had bought and carried some over to this year. And we have re-ordered twice this season!”

Steve, who set up contracting within his original cattle hoof trimming business in 2010, ventured into bale wrapping five years ago. He wanted to offer something that no other contractor in the area was, deciding on the Film&Film option.

Rather than holding the bale together with net, the McHale Fusion 3 Plus combiwrapper uses Baletite plastic film. This produces a compact, dense bale which has significantly more air squeezed out of it in the bale chamber, before it is wrapped with six layers of SiltotitePro. SilotitePro creates a highly effective seal which ensures high silage quality is maintained until feed out.

Film&Film Wrapping also provides benefits post-use. Bales came be opened quickly and efficiently (either manually or via a bale shear) with Baletite peeling away cleanly as no silage can become enmeshed in it as with netwrap. It is also easier to recycle the film after feed-out. As both films, Baletite and SilotitePro, are made from polythene they can be recycled together and placed in the same bin without any need to separate them, unlike netwrap (which is not widely or easily recycled).

“This year I did a bit of a trial comparing SilotitePro with ordinary, cheaper plastic wrap,” Steve explains. “There was a real positive difference. There is more wrap per roll and there is definitely more stretch in the film, so I am making an extra ten bales per pair of rolls. This also saves me time, as I am making more bales before having to replenish the baler, which on the long days I am doing at the moment is very welcome.”

 

Use Clingseal to prevent silage waste

Adding an additional thin clear film directly to the top of freshly clamped silage, under the traditional black plastic sheet, can reduce feed wastage to zero, according to RPC bpi agriculture’s sales director, Lloyd Dawson.

“With conserved forage in short supply following last year’s poor grass growing season, reducing post harvest losses will help farmers make and store as much as possible this year,” says Mr. Dawson.

“Silage dry matter losses can be as high as 25% in clamps, mainly through poor consolidation at filling or poor sheeting.  Applying Clingseal, a thin, flexible and low permeability top sheet, makes a real impact on reducing top or shoulder waste.”

Visqueen Clingseal ‘clings’ to the surface of the clamp and prevents pockets of trapped air forming which would lead to aerobic spoilage. It also facilitates faster, more efficient fermentation, which produces high quality forage to feed.

Adding an additional thin clear film directly to the top of freshly clamped silage, under the traditional black plastic sheet, can reduce feed wastage to zero, according to RPC bpi agriculture’s sales director, Lloyd Dawson.

“With conserved forage in short supply following last year’s poor grass growing season, reducing post harvest losses will help farmers make and store as much as possible this year,” says Mr. Dawson.

“Silage dry matter losses can be as high as 25% in clamps, mainly through poor consolidation at filling or poor sheeting.  Applying Clingseal, a thin, flexible and low permeability top sheet, makes a real impact on reducing top or shoulder waste.”

Visqueen Clingseal ‘clings’ to the surface of the clamp and prevents pockets of trapped air forming which would lead to aerobic spoilage. It also facilitates faster, more efficient fermentation, which produces high quality forage to feed.

No waste

Robert Dodds, a fourth generation dairy farmer based between Stranraer and Dumfries in south west Scotland, milks 1,650 dairy cows and makes 22,000 tonnes of conserved forage from three cuts of grass from 735 hectares.

All the silaging is done by the in-house team and the fresh grass placed in the clamp with a loading shovel and rolled with a tractor to remove as much air as possible. Using Visqueen Clingseal under the black Visqueen Agri-S top sheet has made eliminated top waste completely.

“Before using Clingseal top and side wastage could be as high as 5%. But now there is no wastage at all,” says Mr. Dodds.

“We could easily have eight centimetres of waste on the top and edges of each clamp. Now with no spoilage, there is more than 1,000 tonnes of silage extra to feed to the cows, which more than covers the cost of the Clingseal.”

Robert Dodds, a fourth generation dairy farmer based between Stranraer and Dumfries in south west Scotland, milks 1,650 dairy cows and makes 22,000 tonnes of conserved forage from three cuts of grass from 735 hectares.

All the silaging is done by the in-house team and the fresh grass placed in the clamp with a loading shovel and rolled with a tractor to remove as much air as possible. Using Visqueen Clingseal under the black Visqueen Agri-S top sheet has made eliminated top waste completely.

“Before using Clingseal top and side wastage could be as high as 5%. But now there is no wastage at all,” says Mr. Dodds.

“We could easily have eight centimetres of waste on the top and edges of each clamp. Now with no spoilage, there is more than 1,000 tonnes of silage extra to feed to the cows, which more than covers the cost of the Clingseal.”