Introduction to Leaf Silage - Part 4
Author : Louise Jakobsen
Firstly, we would like to emphasize that there is more than just one approach to silage making! This is our interpretation based on experiences made over a decade of silage packing.
This guide is based on packing a clip-top barrel:
Make sure your material is fresh and of good quality. As mentioned in Part 3, do not pack silage when it is raining. Avoid wet leaves!
Best time to harvest leaves for silage is from the end of May to July for optimum nutritional content. Leaves can be harvested until late September/mid-October depending on how the weather has been throughout the season (UK).
When packing the material, pack it evenly - layer by layer. This way, you won’t disturb the lower layers when taking material out of the barrel for feeding and it prolongs the shelf life after opening.
Constantly push down as you fill the barrel to remove as much air as possible within the material. Don’t wait until the end to push the material down as it will be difficult to remove the air in the lowest layers.
Be careful with too high a twig-leaf ratio as more air pockets can develop. Some species, for example weeping willow (Salix x sepulcralis) and birch (Betula spp.), allow you to include a fair amount of twig as the wood are flexible and you can wrap it around like wreaths. Ideally pack the same day the material has been harvested and finish the barrel the same day (if packing nettles, it is beneficial to let the material dry for a day).
It is recommended to pack just one species per barrel as some species may have different fermentation rates but you can get away with mixing some species. Studies have shown benefits from adding fresh alfalfa into the barrels to reduce mould and yeast.
Avoid fruits and berries.
The barrel must be packed so full that the lid will provide a constant pressure once fitted. Make sure no material gets in the way of the lid’s seal as that may draw air into the barrel.