A unique concept in covering silage is available this spring from forage preservation specialists, Kelvin Cave Ltd. The Silage Safe system requires no weighting on top of the clamp, dispensing with the need for tyres, gravel bags or any other weights.
Instead, the clamp is sealed by a series of straps which are tightly ratcheted into place. This makes one of the most unpopular jobs at the end of silage making a potentially two-person operation.
The straps can also be tightened during the course of the crop’s storage which ensures a full and even tension is achieved over the clamp, helping to avoid the creation of air spaces as the silage settles.
A further benefit of the system is its application and removal in two-metre sections. This is as useful at the time of feed-out as it is at covering, speeding up the process and avoiding the need to move weights. Each section can then be stored on racks for use the following year.
This is the first year Silage Safe has been available in the UK for the grass silage season. However, several forage producers were early users of the system for maize silage last autumn. These include a dairy farmer in an exposed coastal location and an arable farmer in East Anglia covering maize for anaerobic digestion.
A & E G Heading Ltd covered a clamp on their Cambridgeshire farms measuring a massive 100 x 30 metres, with a height of 6 metres. This is believed to be the largest ever clamp covered with this system anywhere in the world.
Farming around 6,000 acres and cutting 800 acres of maize last year, farmer, Marc Heading, said: “I was absolutely determined not to have a clamp covered in disused tyres and wanted it to be relatively easy to manage.”
The estimated 14,000 tonnes of freshweight in the clamp will be used as feedstock, together with wheat straw, for the Headings’ five-megawatt gas-to-grid anaerobic digester.
He added: “The covering system is projected to achieve payback in one to two years through a reduction in dry matter losses which could otherwise easily occur through aerobic spoilage.”
Silage Safe is equally suitable for smaller farming operations, being bespoke for every clamp. On the South Wales coast, dairy farmer, Hopkin Evans, also used the system to cover maize last year for his 180-head herd.
A key feature for Mr Evans was the product’s wind-resistance, assisted by being firmly anchored in place inside the clamp.
He explained when the maize harvest was complete last October, it was just his family left on site for the job of sheeting and covering the clamp. Once sheeting was complete – using O2 Barrier 2in1, the single sheet which transforms into two – the Silage Safe netting just needed closing and tightening.
“Sheeting and covering the clamp has always been such a physical operation, but this was really easy,” he said. “I have never done it with just my wife and parents before, and the whole process took well under two hours.”
For the future he plans to add more of the new covering systems to the other clamps on the farm. He said: “I did deliberate hard before buying the Silage Safe but I have no doubt we did the right thing.
“I can see this product easily lasting 10 years but I’m confident it will return its investment in two to three years. The greatest damage caused on our farm is when anything flaps in the wind, but this covering just stays in shape and in place – it doesn’t move at all.”
Distribution of Silage Safe in Great Britain is exclusively through feed and forage preservation specialists, Kelvin Cave Ltd. Tel: 01458 252281, www.kelvincave.com.