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‘There is virtually no mouldy silage’ – ag contractor using baler film instead of netwrap

The relatively new Film & Film (F&F) system is an innovative dual-wrapping method combining the use of SilotitePro balewrap and Baletite net wrap replacement film.

This results in better-shaped and more compact bales, which can better withstand handling and have a longer storage life.

Using baler film instead of net wrap, the F&F wrapping system helps to reduce silage losses, virtually eliminating mould growth and preventing silage from becoming enmeshed during feed out.

By using film to bind the bale together, removal and recycling of the film are made easier as the farmer is only left with one product to recycle and can avoid the time-consuming job of separating the net wrap from the stretch film.

Baletite enhances the ensiling process and protects the contents of the bale by creating additional layers of protection around the bale.

It provides an air barrier that helps to prevent the growth of white mould, which can cause valuable silage losses.

Using Baletite as an alternative to net wrap results in better-shaped bales by exerting a tighter grip around the bale circumference.

Trial results

Excellent trial results have been obtained in Wales by Dr. Dave Davies of Silage Solutions Ltd, who acts as an independent consultant to the Silage Advisory Centres.

Dr. Davies is a former Senior Research Scientist at the Institute of Grassland & Environmental Research (IGER) at Aberystwyth in Wales.

On a trial he conducted on a commercial farm in Wales under real working farm conditions, Dr Davies demonstrated that Film & Film wrapped bales had:

  • 7.5% less dry matter (DM) losses compared to net wrap bales due to an enhanced fermentation process;
  • 80% fewer DM losses compared to net wrap bales due to mould formation on the bale;
  • The reduced losses that resulted through the use of the F&F wrapping system meant that the farmer on this farm gained more forage to feed to his/her herd.

For a dairy farmer, preserving forage more successfully could provide a significant financial benefit as follows:

  • This farmer gained an average of 7.35kg DM per bale using the Film & Film wrapping system.
  • As 1kg of DM = 11.8 MJ ME (Metabolisable Energy), this means that the farmer gained 86.73 MJ ME per Film & Film bale (7.35 kg DM x 11.8 MJ ME).
  • In order to produce 1 litre of milk, you need: ± 5.8MJ/litre MJ ME.
  • Therefore the 86.73MJ ME averagely gained for each of these bales could give an additional 15 litres of milk production.
  • For a cattle farmer, this was equivalent to an increase of 1.9kg of live weight gain per bale.
  • The value of the extra silage conserved is around €5/bale. This calculation is based on data supplied in December 2022 by Dr Tom Butler of FBA Laboratories.
Commercial farm

It is important to note that the above trial was undertaken under commercial farm conditions and not on a research institution farm where bales are carefully handled and stored under ideal conditions by well-trained research staff.

Bales wrapped using this system also have a longer storage life, are easier to handle or stack and are more valuable to farmers buying extra forage for their livestock.

The high holding force of Baletite in this wrapping system maintains the pressure that has been applied during baling.

Indeed, trials undertaken by the ILVO (Institute for Research in Agriculture) in Belgium found that bales wrapped using the Film & Film System, on average, contained 10% more silage, and these bales were, on average, 2cm smaller in circumference than traditional netted bales.

The cost of baling and wrapping with four layers of wrap in Ireland was circa €12.00 per bale in 2022, and agri contractors charge an additional €1:00 for using a net wrap replacement film.

So, the extra feed value not only covers this, but it also pays for more than a third of the total cost. A very good reason indeed to switch from net wrap to the F & F wrapping system.

Ag contractor comments

This F & F system is also recommended by Kuhn, winner of ‘Machine of the Year’ in the AgriTechnica forage harvesting category in 2018 and a LAMMA Silver Award winner in 2019. Check out their videos on YouTube.

A typical contractor comment is as follows:

“The film and film bales keep their shape better in storage and are less prone to damage.”

“A lot of my customers are using bale splitters, so this makes life a lot easier as no separation of bale wrap and netting is needed.”

“On top of this, farmers are finding that silage quality is better, and there is virtually no mouldy silage. So, there are lots of advantages indeed.”

Improved baling and wrapping technology

Information such as customer name, number of bales, average bale weight and moisture content can be printed out by some of the modern bale wrappers.

This information is very useful for any farmers feeding the bales to their livestock or negotiating bale prices with other farmers.

Nowadays, most bales are chopped, and these are 8-12% heavier than conventional round bales, save on stretch film, take up less storage space and are easier to feed out.

When crop is chopped, it results in more material compressed in the bale, and this leads to a reduction in transport and film costs per kg of silage wrapped.

Chopping the forage allows for optimum fermentation as the sugars in the crop will be readily available from the dry crop.

This results in the production of superior-quality fodder that can be easily digested.

Chopped forage is easier to distribute from diet feeders and straw blowers as the short material can be processed and distributed far quicker than longer material.

DM

Although the optimum % DM for bales may vary for dairy, beef, and sheep, avoiding over-wilting is important for any livestock to optimise nutrient value.

A notable difference in Ireland is that bales are usually made at 25-35% dry matter (DM), rather than the usual 35-45% DM or higher as typical of bales in Britain.

This makes them heavier – weighing about 850-900 kg compared with 600-650 kg – but cuts wilting time. This also reduces in-field nutrient losses and is a boon during changeable weather.

Baling at 25%-35% DM provides an opportunity to improve the fermentation for a better preservation, and makes them less susceptible to heating and spoilage problems that affect drier silage.

Many independent research trials show that using a proven silage additive can result in more silage recovered from the grass that was baled or clamped.

For farmers aiming to make high-quality silage, the inclusion of a quality additive can significantly improve silage fermentation and quality.

This is important as increasing silage quality will lead to a higher level of production on beef, dairy and sheep farms.

Additive treated silages

For example, based on trial results, one proven additive had the following benefits:

  • Metabolisable Energy (ME) increased by an average of 0.7MJ/kg of dry matter (DM).
  • Silage digestibility improved by an average of 3 D units.
  • DM intakes increased by 5% on average.

Given the increase in energy content, digestibility and DM intakes, the use of additive-treated silages obviously leads to an increase in animal performance as measured by higher milk yield (an average of 1.2 Litres/cow/day in 15 various trials.) or better liveweight gain (19% higher).

Based on research trial results, you can triple your return on investment by using a silage additive.

The Film & Film (F&F) system is an innovative dual-wrapping method with SilotitePro balewrap and Baletite net wrap replacement film.

Excellent recycling results

When baled silage was first introduced, bales were around 50% of the current weights and film was only stretched 55%.

Now, it is stretched 70%, so less bale wrap is now used per Kg of grass wrapped, and there is also less film to recycle after use.

The five key elements for a good-performing silage stretch film are:

  • Cling capacity;
  • Puncture resistance;
  • Tear resistance;
  • Elongation at break;
  • Tightening force.

Silotite Pro 1800 also benefits from an enhanced oxygen barrier – critical to ensuring excellent crop conservation.

Benefits include:
  • More 20% more bales wrapped per reel;
  • Significant time savings for the busy silage contractor;
  • Enhanced silage quality for livestock;
  • Its unique sleeve packaging means that it has 45kg less packaging/pallet, with no bulky boxes to move around and recycle separately. The packaging is made of the same material as the film inside, so it can all be recycled together.
  • Both Baletite and bale wrap can be recycled together, saving valuable time and labour costs, unlike net wrap, which has to be recycled separately.
Recycling

The Silotite range of stretch films now includes Silotite Sustane, which uses 30% recycled materials, using a mixture of mechanically or advanced recycled materials from industrial, agricultural and consumer films that have been recycled.

Silotite Sustane can also be recycled again, meaning that the contribution to sustainability goes even further, to create even more recycled products.

IFFPG, a not-for-profit body, has recycled over 400,000 tonnes of farm film waste since its establishment in 1998.

The scheme, which is funded by both industry and farmers and approved by the Department for the Environment is an excellent example of what can be achieved when all the key stakeholders in a sector come together to work for the environment.

Irish farmers achieved a record 90% recycling rate for farm films in 2021 and, in doing so, recycled the equivalent of film from 18 m silage bales.

The majority was collected at over 200 bring-centres, held during the summer at locations such as livestock marts, coops and agri-merchant premises.

New products

Over a third of collected material was supplied to Irish recyclers for processing into a range of new products.

In total, 37,000 tonnes of silage wrap and silage covers were recycled in 2021-3,000 tonnes more than in 2020 which was also a record year.

For the average farmer who makes 300 bales of silage, the total recycling cost is approx. €60, while the average distance to the local bring-centre is only 11 km.

These factors, as well as a desire by farmers to be environmentally responsible, have resulted in the recycling rate for farm films being consistently the highest for any recycling stream in the country.

About Berry bpi

Berry bpi, which manufactures Baletite & Silotite, is a leading recycler of bale wrap products and other packaging in Europe, with the scope and expertise to recycle over 150,000 tonnes pa.

Every tonne of polythene recycled saves 1.8 tonnes of crude oil, reduces energy usage by two-thirds, entails 90% less water and cuts sulphur dioxide emissions by 33%.

Useful products manufactured from recycled bale wrap and silage covers include:

  • Calf pens;
  • Fencing posts;
  • Floor slats;
  • Garden furniture;
  • Gates;
  • Pet housing;
  • Rubbish bags;
  • Water piping.
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