16 steps to cover silage piles
The final step of harvest – and one of the most critical steps – is to effectively cover and seal our bunkers and piles to limit oxygen and protect forages. We depend on bacteria to ferment and preserve forage, and virtually all these bacteria need a low-oxygen environment to efficiently do the job. Here are some recommendations to help you cover forages safely, efficiently and effectively.
1. Safety is paramount in all that we do. Everyone should wear high-visibility clothing. Hold a safety meeting prior to covering your feed. Stay a safe distance from all forage faces on the entire feed pad. Make sure your farm crew is aware of new traffic from the harvest crew and the harvest crew is aware of daily farm traffic patterns.
2. Use radios or other methods to communicate and coordinate, especially on large piles and in windy conditions.
3. Have enough tires/sidewalls to cover the entire pile with tires touching to keep oxygen from entering beneath the plastic.
4. Order enough plastic and vapor barrier to cover the entire pile, accounting for overlap and an extra 3 to 4 feet around the edges.
5. Properly prepare the bunker or pile site by removing all old feed or potential contaminates.
6. Keep water away. Slope bunkers to shed water away from feed.
7. Keep mud and dirt away too.
8. Repair any holes in bunker sidewalls to keep out oxygen.
9. Discard tires and sidewalls with exposed steel cords so they don’t damage plastic or cause injuries.
10. Stage tires prior to harvest in a spot where they can be quickly and efficiently moved to the pile.
11. Line bunker sidewalls. Place plastic drainage tile or drag hose cut lengthwise at the top of bunker walls to keep the rough concrete edges from ripping the plastic.
12. Use equipment to boost efficiency (telehandlers, tire shooters, etc.).
13. Put tires around the pile prior to covering so they are easy to get to the pile surface when needed.
14. Haul tires to the top of piles (if it can be done safely and practically) as it’s easier for the covering crew to carry them downhill.
15. Carefully handle plastic rolls and use a spool or other dispensing device to prevent damage to the plastic.
16. Protect the plastic and be safe while covering:
- Choose footwear that won’t damage the plastic.
- Depending on pile size, overlap seams by at least 4 to 10 feet.
- Overlap plastic in such a way that it sheds water from the surface rather than letting it seep between seams.
- Use Gorilla Tape® or Ag-Bag® repair tape to hold overlaps in place until you put down the tires.
- Silo gases are very dangerous, even in piles. Under no circumstances should anyone ever get under the plastic. For this reason, as well as others, keep children away from piles.
- In cases of strong wind, hold the edges of the plastic lower to the silage surface when pulling it over the pile. Workers should let go if wind catches plastic and their feet leave the silage surface.
- Place tire sidewalls with the cut side up.
- Don’t throw tires as this can also damage plastic.
Forage storage and management