Baleage for dairy goats: Prevent spoilage to protect feed quality

Posted on April 17, 2024 in Dairy Goat Performance
By Michelle Chang-Der Bedrosian, Vita Plus forage products and dairy technical specialist

Baleage, or wrapped haylage, is a feed that is not only convenient but also packed with nutrients essential for dairy goats’ health and milk production.  It combines the benefits of haylage and the versatility and portability of baled hay.

But there is a catch: Getting it right requires some know-how.  Let’s dive into the world of baleage and uncover the secrets to ensuring the best nutrition possible for dairy goats.

One of the challenges when making baleage is to prevent aerobic spoilage.  Spoilage is primarily caused by the presence of oxygen, which allows for the growth of spoilage yeasts that consume lactic acid.  These spoilage yeasts then raise the pH of the silage and pave the way for molds and aerobic bacteria to degrade silage quality while also producing some dangerous byproducts, such as mycotoxins.

Aerobic spoilage is especially challenging in baleage versus an upright, bunker, or pile silo because of the greater amount of surface area versus core volume in baleage, and because it can be harder to achieve great densities to ensure effective oxygen exclusion at harvest in baleage.

Preventing spoilage
To prevent spoilage, it is crucial to minimize oxygen exposure during the baling and wrapping process.  Some key steps to prevent spoilage include:

  1. Proper dry matter at harvest:  Ensure that the forage has the correct dry matter (DM) content at harvest, typically between 45% and 65%.  Forage that is too wet can lead to excessive or butyric fermentations.  Forage that is too dry may not ferment properly and is prone to poor packing density and trapped pockets of air that can lead to spoilage.
  2. Use of high-quality plastic wrap:  Wrap bales with multiple layers of high-quality plastic to create an airtight seal.  Most experts recommend using at least six layers of plastic to prevent oxygen infiltration, and more if the crop is mature with stiff, pointy stems.
  3. Inoculants:  Consider using inoculants containing Lactobacillus buchneri bacteria, which can help reduce spoilage and improve aerobic stability.
  4. Propionic acid:  Some farmers use propionic acid as a preservative to further inhibit the growth of spoilage organisms.

Dealing with spoiled feed
Even with proper precautions, spoilage can still occur.  If you discover spoiled baleage, it’s important to promptly act by:

  1. Removing the spoiled feed:  Remove any visibly spoiled portions of the baleage before feeding it to your goats.  Be sure to wear gloves and a mask to protect yourself from mold spores and toxins.
  2. Monitoring health:  Keep a close eye on your herds’ health after consuming feed that you suspect may be spoiled.  Watch for any signs of illness, such as reduced appetite, reproduction issues, diarrhea or lethargy.  Consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns.
  3. Using a feed additive to support the immune system:  A good-quality feed additive that supports the immune system may help the animal manage any dietary insults, such as spoiled feed.  Consult with your nutritionist on what strategy best fits your situation.

By understanding the causes of spoilage and taking proactive steps to prevent it, you can ensure that your goats receive high-quality feed that fuels their health and productivity.

Category: Animal health
Dairy Goat Performance
Feed quality and nutrition