SMARTsilage - improving silage efficiency in Wales

Dairy cows eating silage courtesy of Genus ABS

24 November 2017

A new consortium aiming reduce losses from silage making in Wales by 20% will be launched at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair on Tuesday 28 November 2017.

SMARTsilage, led by scientists at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth, could lead to savings of over £8m for Welsh farmers every year.

The consortium sees IBERS researchers working with industry partners Pöttinger, Genus ABS and Volac.

It is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

Rhun Fychan, silage research scientist at IBERS said: “Each year, approximately 5.4 million tonnes of fresh grass is ensiled in Wales on livestock farms, with an estimated value of £162M.

“Silage production is a key driver for the profitability of Welsh livestock farms but current ensiling processes are inefficient, with calculated losses of approximately 25% in clamp silage systems.

“SMARTsilage will bring together the silage expertise to achieve a solution through collaboration to exploit new and existing agricultural technologies, targeted at key stages of the ensiling process, with an ultimate common aim of reducing overall ensiling losses from the current 25% loss down to 20%.

“Therefore, achieving this ultimate common aim could provide an economic benefit to Wales of £8.1 million per annum. On a farm ensiling 500 tonnes DM of grass an additional 25 tonnes DM silage will be available for feeding valued at £3750.”

The successful production of home-grown feed, typically conserved as grass silage as the main feed for ruminant livestock systems, is fundamental to the sustainability of the Welsh livestock industry, and food security.

As well as increasing the quantity of silage available for feeding, reducing ensiling losses will result in higher quality silage and improved animal performance.

Silage losses not only represent a financial loss in terms of feed, they are also an environmental risk as they include gaseous and liquid nutrient losses, in the form of volatile carbon compounds (e.g. carbon dioxide) and silage effluent, respectively, reducing air quality and polluting surface and ground water.

By reducing the loss of valuable silage feed, this project has the potential to provide both a positive economic and environmental benefit for the Welsh agricultural industry.

The short- term objectives of the SMARTsilage project is to develop a new collaborative approach to exploit the latest agricultural technologies, forage harvesting technology and silage inoculants, each targeted at key stages of the ensiling process, with a common ultimate aim of improving the efficiency of silage production by 20% in Wales.

The longer-term objective is to use the findings from this work and the opportunities it presents to take forward a shared goal, to define Wales as a world-leader in silage production research for companies and farmers looking for global agricultural solutions.