Pros and Cons of Haylage
Cut wet, baled in plastic, and stored almost anywhere, haylage may be a great alternative to hay. Farmers can use any forage crop to make haylage. Many farmers are turning to haylage vs. hay.
Pros haylage offer are many because it is less weather dependent, causes fewer respiratory issues and can be stored almost anywhere.
Less Weather Dependent
One of the advantages of haylage is that it is baled wet. Therefore, farmers do not have to wait until they get a dry week to bale it. The ideal moisture content in haylage is between 40-and-60%. The high moisture content is necessary to start the bacteria-growing process causing the haylage to ferment in a process that is exceptionally similar to making sauerkraut.
The second advantage of haylage is that it is a much quicker process. Most farmers can cut the forage in the morning and bale it in the afternoon. By comparison, most forage for hay lays in the field to cure for at least three days before farmers bale it.
Animals Love Haylage
Most animals who eat hay love haylage, including cattle and sheep. Changing between haylage and hay seldom causes any issues.
If you are a farmer or you grew up on a farm, then you probably have memories of putting hay up in a barn when temperatures were soaring. That is not the case with haylage. These plastic-wrapped bales can be stored almost anywhere outside. This can be a significant advantage as there may be no need to move the haylage after harvesting it, and it can be stored in the field if desired.
The nutritional content between hay and haylage are very similar, according to tests conducted by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Hay contains an average of 6.4% while haylage contains 6.8%. Ash is a measurement of the amount of minerals in the forage. The amount of crude protein in hay on average is 10.8% compared to 11.6% in haylage. Hay contains approximately 60.5% fiber while haylage contains about 60.7% fiber.
Decreased Respiratory Issues
Some animals, like horses, are very suspectable to respiratory issues caused by particles from hay that are invisible to the naked eye. Haylage has less of these particles, so your animals may remain healthier.
Cons of Haylage
Weight of Haylage Bales
As with everything in life, there are some cons of haylage. The first of the disadvantages is that haylage is hard to move. If the bale has 55% moisture, then a 4-foot-square bale weighs approximately 1,200 pounds. If the haylage has 60% moisture, then that same bale weights 1,200 pounds. Therefore, it is hard to move these bales to a new location. In many cases, older balers cannot handle the weight of these bales. Consequently, you may have to invest in new equipment. The great news is that the equipment is the same as required for hay, so you can make a choice each time that your forage is ready for bailing.
Two types of balers are commonly used when making haylage. The first type is a tube baler. These balers operate at a faster speed than individual balers. Tube wrappers also use less plastic wrap. The second alternative is the individual baler. While it uses more plastic wrap and works at a slower rate of speed, the plastic wrap is less likely to get torn or puncture, which results in less product spoilage. Many larger operations that use the haylage quickly opt for the first option while smaller operations tend to use individual balers.
Most farmers run two different tractors when making haylage. One tractor makes the bales. It is followed by a second tractor that immediately tips the bales up on their ends. Bales that are left flat expand downward slightly, which makes them harder to wrap.
Must Check Haylage Weekly
Haylage bales are wrapped in plastic, and it must not get torn, or the product will spoil. Therefore, farmers should check the plastic weekly. If they discover that the plastic has been punctured or torn, then it is necessary to fix it with a special tape. Using regular duct tape means that the product will spoil within a week.
Like some hay bales, if animals do not eat the haylage quickly, it can heat up in the middle. Then, the product spoils. Therefore, you have waste, and you will need to make smaller bales. For sheep and other smaller animals, most farmers roll out the bale on the ground to avoid the problem of the animals not consuming the haylage fast enough. This solution may also be workable with cattle and other larger animals who are not consuming it fast enough.
Water-soluble Carbohydrates Compared to Volatile Fatty Acids
One of the most substantial nutrient differences between hay and haylage is the amount of water-soluble carbohydrates. In hay, the amount of water-soluble carbohydrates is 10.1% compared to 7.1% in haylage. The way that haylage is made converts the carbohydrates to volatile fatty acids. Volatile fatty acids are essential to give the animal energy needed to grow. High levels of water-soluble carbohydrates have produced laminitis in horses. The difference may be even higher if cool-season fodder is used to make the haylage.
Must Wait to Feed
The nutrient content in haylage is highest about six weeks after bailing. It is best to wait for the fermentation process to take place. By comparison, the nutrient content in hay is the highest right after bailing. Therefore, if you need to feed the product right away, then hay may be the best option.
There is a lot to think about when you compare hay to haylage, like the amount of equipment needed, the nutrient content of the fodder, your ability to store hay or haylage properly, and your ability to feed either option. You will need to make your own decision after weighing all the different factors.