What a new farmer needs to know about silage

What does a new farmer needs to know about silage?

Here I talk with Joe Dickenson from Dickenson Farms in Oilsprings, On about how he uses silage on his farm and what new farmers need to know.

Silage is something I don’t know much about, so I thought I would talk to someone who works with it on a regular basis.

Here are the questions that I ask him. 

  1. What is Silage?
  2. How do you make silage?
  3. What are the different types of silage?  What can we grow in ontario?
  4. What type of silage do you use? Why?
  5. How can you store silage? What are the advantage and disadvantages of different storage types?
  6. What types of animals need silage?
  7. How do you use silage on your farm?
  8. Is there anything I didn’t ask you about silage that new farmers would need to know?

Key highlights

  • Silage is a full crop that is chopped up green and stored in a oxygen limiting environment. It’s more moist and fermented.
  • Balage usually baled dryer than haylage and stored in bales. For baleage you are putting it into bales.
  • Haylage is wetter than balage.
  • First cut hay is usually a larger volume, so it is harder to get it all dry to put it into bales.  So if you’re pinched for time, you have a couple options after you cut your hay.
    • Bale the hay wet.
    • Make haylage out of your first cut.
  • Dry hay transports easier than wet hay.
  • Wrapped bales can last upwards of two years. However, once you open the wrapped bale it’s ideal to have it eaten by the animals in three days or less.
  • You use a forage harvester to chop up corn or sorghum into fine pieces. These fine pieces are put into a trailer and then put into a silo (either a vertical silo or a bunker type silo).
  • Haylage is a form of silage.
  • Haylage is chopped up legume e.g. alfalpha
  • Alfalpha is a good choice to have in your hay mix.
  • Haylage is usually a combination of alfapha, treefoil and fescu grass.
  • Some varieties of hay need to come off the field within 5 days.
  • Sorghum can be used as a nurse crop. That means that you would plant it at the same time as your hay seed. The sorghum grows faster than the hayseed so then you can cut the sorghum thus allowing the hay to grow.
  • You can store silage either in a vertical or horizontal silo as long as it is in an oxygen limiting environment.
  • You need to make sure you feed the appropriate amount of feed to your animals.
  • You use a blower to put your silage into the silo.
  • Beef cows and dairy cows don’t necessarily need silage.  However, by using silage you can increase your production of milk in dairy cows. Silage helps beef cows develop stronger.
  • Silage can speed up the feeding process.
  • Not all silage is created equal. Think of silage as wine, so each growing season is different.
  • It’s a good idea to diversify your feed options with your livestock.

Haylage vs Baleage vs Silage

Haylage is wetter than baleage. So the moisture level in haylage is higher than baleage.

Baleage is baled dryer than haylage.

You normally put baleage into wrapped hay bales.

Haylage tends to be chopped up and put into a silo.

Let me put it into moisture perspective.

  • Baleage runs about 30% moisture
  • Haylage runs about 50% moisture.
  • Corn Silage runs about 60% moisture

Protein values:

  • Haylage runs about 20% protein.
  • Silage runs about 8.5% protein.

Pictures from Joe’s farm

Final thoughts

Is there anything that I missed that you might be interested in?

Leave me a comment below.


  1. Thanks for clarifying us about silage! Love the post.

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  3. Gurbaj Singh says:

    Is it OK to make silage by digging a cylindrical whole into the ground and only using mud and polythene

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