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6 Quick Tips to Reduce Forage Shrink

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
July 12, 2017        
Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties

6 Quick Tips to Reduce Forage Shrink
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (07/12/2017) — A good forage supply is critical to many livestock operations.  No doubt farmers look for any means possible to maximize their forage inventory.  Here’s a simple question: How much of your forage are you losing to shrink?  Now, minimizing shrink is an issue that should be on top of the priority list as it impacts several aspects of a successful farming operation.  Priorities may be constantly changing on your farm, but it’s time to think about what we can be doing to ensure we’re losing as little forage as possible to shrink.

It’s important to keep in mind that shrink occurs in multiple ways.  Stored forage can be subject to dry matter and forage quality losses. Losses of dry hay stored inside a barn are usually not a concern, however, even for barn stored hay; losses tend to increase when hay moisture is above 20%.  Each mechanism in forage-preservation process will probably cause loss of a forage dry matter. Some losses are either mechanical or biological. For hay-making, most of the losses come from mechanical or weather damage, whereas, for silage-making, most losses will occur at storage and feed out stages. In general, round bales are usually subject to greater losses than small rectangular bales, because they tend to remain outside with no protection between baling and feeding.

As a part of good silage management, we should take in consideration the following steps to help reduce shrink:
1. Harvest at correct maturity and moisture concentration.
2. Fill the bunker as rapidly as possible.
3. Pack well and seal the bunker to reduce oxygen infiltration for at least 14 days to allow the fermentation process.
4. Feed appropriate rate to reduce face exposure to oxygen.
5. Unload an average of 2-6 inches/day to keep the surface smooth. This will limit aerobic deterioration and will help to reduce any possible spoilage.
6. Discard deteriorated silage, which will help prevent livestock health problems.

Reducing shrink is a crucial management project on any farm at any time, so make sure that it is a priority on your farm today and every day.


Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169
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