Home Grazing Gear Up For Grazing Contents Baleage Perfect Complement for Pasture-Based Production

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Baleage Perfect Complement for Pasture-Based Production
Use it to balance the quality of your pasture.

Baleage -- forage wrapped in large round bales and allowed to ferment -- makes an excellent, low-cost stored feed system, especially for pasture-based producers. So says Tim Fritz, a Penn State University Extension grazing specialist in Montgomery County, Pa., in a recent discussion (summer '96) on the graze-l internet discussion group.

Fritz and other cyberspace graziers offers these tips:

Mimic grazing. Unlike filling silos or bunkers, you can harvest baleage in small bites. "When you have surplus pasture in spring, limit the amount you harvest each day as baleage so that when you bring these paddocks back into the pasture rotation, their regrowth is staggered," says Fritz. Dry matter should be 40 to 50 percent when baled.

Beat the weather. Wingham, Ont., grazier Brian Jeffray likes the low weather risk of making baleage, "especially when we can cut one day and bale the next," he says. "It seems that lots of times when we want to hay here in Ontario that is as long as you get between showers."

Mark and match bales. At harvest, label bales so that when you feed it out later, you know what's inside -- forage species, maturity, etc. Then you can match the bale you feed to complement the quality of the pasture your cows are grazing. Crack open the overmature grass baleage when pastures are rich, and save the top-shelf baleage for when they are thin. Baleage is long-stemmed and will help slow down the passage of feed, Fritz points out.

Drawbacks. "The big negative of baleage is plastic disposal," Fritz adds. "The other is variability. But you can turn that into a positive by matching the baleage to the pasture."

"It is pretty tough for the average farm in Wisconsin to justify the cost of a good baler and wrapper set up," observes Tom Cadwallader, University of Wisconsin Extension Livestock Agent based in Merrill, Wis. "They really do lend themselves well to the custom operator."

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