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Silage in plastic barrels

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Postby bjreroberts » Sun Jul 12, 2009 6:52 pm

On another forum someone has recommended making silage using plastic food grade barrels with screw top lids. They fill the barrels and compact the grass. As the silage is removed they use a plywood disc covered in plastic and weighed down with weights to keep the air out.

This is potentially attractive to me as:

i) I have limited undercover storage for hay
ii) No loader for handling plastic wrapped haylage / silage
iii) A ready supply of potentially free silage with 2/3 people in the village mowing fields and then dumping the grass.

As I know nothing about making silage, is it this easy and are there any potential problems with the method proposed?
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Postby Broomcroft » Sun Jul 12, 2009 8:49 pm

As long as the grass has wilted a bit and you can keep the air out with a good seal, it should make silage/haylage. You can make haylage without even wrapping it if you can keep it sealed as far as I know.

You'll need quite a few plastic tubs though won't you?

A local around here makes big bales in the fieldm then brings them into a barn, spread them out again using a bale shredder, and then re-bales and wraps them into small square bales of haylage.

I just wonder if you stuffed some really strong plastics bags and pressed all the air out you could and sealed them whether that would do it? Or better still find some way of sucking the air out of the bag before you seal it. Or you could stuff the bag, seal it, then pierce a hole, sit on it/squash it down tight, then put a bale patch on the hole and let it go.




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Postby Martin » Sun Jul 12, 2009 9:52 pm

If my memory serves me right, I seem to remember that when big bag silage first started it was just a round bale put into a big bag and the air was sucked out using an industrial hoover. It was stacked using a spike and the holes sealed using adhesive patches. Bale handlers, shrink wrap and bale wrappers where not invented at that time. The idea was to give an alternative to hay for the smaller farmer that could not for different reasons make pit silage.
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Postby Duncan MacIntyre » Sun Jul 12, 2009 10:03 pm

In the early 1970's "Mowbags" became available. They took small square bales. I can't remember if we used our first baler, an International B45, or our next, a Bamford BL50. We got special wedges to put into the bale chamber, and the tension was screwed up to max. I think the bale length was set at shortest possible, because the bales were pretty heavy. It was wilted a bit, baled very tight, and each bale put into a bag. The bags were not sealed but had to be closed by twisting the neck, applying a twisted wire tie using a pull and twist tool, and then the neck doubled over and another wire applied. They made very good silage, but every bale was very vulnerable to damage, eg birds pecking.

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Postby davidw » Mon Jul 13, 2009 8:42 am

Vacuum silage was a technique imported from New Zealand in the 60's or 70's. They used the vacuum pump on a slurry tanker to extract the air from a silage clamp covered with plastic or butyl rubber sheeting. It was very vulnerable to puncture by birds and rats.
The latest version of this is the ag-bag where wilted grass is stuffed into a long plastic tube, rather like a huge sausage.
My reservation about the plastic barrel idea is that its going to be hard work to pack the barrels tightly enough to minimise the air. Maybe you could rig up some sort of press - but it still sounds like a lot of labour.
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Postby Duncan MacIntyre » Mon Jul 13, 2009 8:52 am

Maybe I didn't say, the Mowbag system did not involve any vaccuum, just tied the bags. All seemed to work ok as long as not punctured. I am sure it would be easy to get the right size of heavy duty bags these days. The originals were clear so you could see if they were ok before you opened them.

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Postby bjreroberts » Mon Jul 13, 2009 9:01 am

Thank you for all the feedback.

I agree it is labour intensive and I would not even be considering it wasn't for all that grass going to waste.

From the feedback I think it might be worth doing a trial and the plastic barrels are readily available on eBay.

I had considered the small bale haylage, but I don't like the idea of all that plastic waste.
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