Throwing old tyres onto a silage stack is possibly the least popular seasonal job, consuming time without guaranteeing silage quality when it comes to opening it up again.
Craig Lipscombe, owner of South Auckland covered feedpad system company Dairy Diner, is now importing a silage cover, promising to eliminate the need for tyres. It also ensure feed quality is locked in and makes stack management easier. Secure Cover silage covers are a common feature int he UK and US and Lipscombe believes they will attract strong interest here. The polyethylene UV-resistant netting is placed over a standard polythene sheet, and can be held down along seams and edges using bags made of the same material and filled with pea metal.
The dense, strong nature of the knitted cover places it close to the polythene's surface, reducing wind lift and minimising unwanted air intrusion to damage silage quality.
Lipscombe said he happened upon the covers after designing two silage bunkers for a farmer and having to allow extra room just for tyre storage.
" I thought there must be a better way and started researching online" he said. " The Secure Covers had a proven record and were exactly what we needed."
Sourced from UK company Thomas and Fontaine, the covers have established a reputation for their ability to withstand Force 7 storm conditions on the Orkney Islands through winter in over 150kph winds. Here in New Zealand high UV levels as well as wind can reduce longevity of plastic based products, and farmers will welcome the seven-year UV stability guarantee.
Lipscombe said pukeko damage is one peculiarly NZ problem the covers protect valuable maize and grass silage from. " One of the first covers we supplied was for a farmer who had his whole stack devastated by pukekos picking holes in the plastic," he said. " The dense, touch polyethylene on the Secure Covers is impossible for pukekos and pests to penetrate, keeping them and the air out."
Opotiki farmer Ian Brown has had the covers for over seven years, protecting over 1m tonnes of dry matter (DM) held as maize or grass silage every season on the 1500-cow operation.
"The beauty of it is that you can walk on the stack when sealing it up and not worry about putting a hole in teh plastic," he said. "It's far tougher than the polythene you lay underneath it. Stock could walk over it and it would not be damaged."
Some farmers may prefer to continue using the tyres they have accumulated over the years, and the tough nature of the cover means tyres can be thrown onto the stack without fear of ripping a hole in it.
The Secure Gravel Bags offer a flexible alternative, being easily filled with pea metal and tied off with supplied cable ties. The bags are a particularly appealing alternative to concrete posts for holding down stack sides, and unlike tyres can be easily stored on a pallet when not used.
A Cover and gravel bags for a typical 12m by 30m silage stack costs around $1800.
The polythene below can also be used again and covering it will be quicker with messy tyres.
by Richard Rennie