A Cambridgeshire arable farmer has just completed the installation of the largest ever silage covering system of its kind in the world.
The system is a new and unique concept whose features include being anchored to the inside of the clamp; being sealed by a series of straps which are tightly ratcheted into place; and potentially being installed as just a two-person operation, saving substantial costs in labour.
The system, called Silage Safe, also dispenses with the need for tyres, gravel bags or any weighting on the clamp and can be tightened during the course of the crop’s storage period. This ensures a full and even tension
is achieved over the clamp, including on the shoulders, and helps avoid the creation of air spaces as the silage settles.
The system was used for last autumn’s forage maize harvest by A & E G Heading Ltd, whose farms are based around Chatteris and stretch to 6,000 acres. Here, some 800 acres of maize were cut last autumn, and ensiled in a clamp measuring a massive 100 x 30 metres, with a height of six metres.
The estimated 14,000 tonnes of freshweight in the clamp will be used as feedstock, together with wheat straw, for the Headings’ five-megawatt gas-to-grid anaerobic digester. However, it could equally be used in livestock feed (see this livestock case study).
Farmer, Marc Heading, said: “I was absolutely determined not to have a clamp covered in disused tyres and wanted it to be relatively easy to manage.”
This is achieved with Silage Safe in part because of its installation in two-metre strips.
“The strips not only make installation manageable by two people, but they also ensure the process of feeding out – whether for livestock or anaerobic digestion – is far easier than the traditional large sheets covering the length of the clamp,” says Kelvin Cave, exclusive distributor of Silage Safe in mainland UK.
As feed-out proceeds, each two-metre strip is removed in sections and can be stored in purpose-built metal crates. These are easily manoeuvred with a front-end loader or telehandler for use the following year.
“The design is also such that the woven sheets – which were placed on the clamp over the impermeable plastic, O2 Barrier 2in1 – can also be removed if extra silage is added to an existing clamp and resealed, without the need to remove tyres or any other weighting,” he says.
“We’re expecting the Silage Safe to last at least 10 years so the investment will be worthwhile if it performs as expected,” adds Mr Heading, remarking that the system is bespoke to the dimensions of the clamp. “It is also projected to achieve payback in one to two years through a reduction in dry matter losses which could otherwise easily occur through aerobic spoilage.”
Furthermore, it is easy to replace individual components, such as the drainage pipes which divert rainwater away from the clamp or the metal bars and levers which are used to close the sheets.
Ross Murray, UK and Ireland business manager for Huesker, Silage Safe’s German supplier, says although there are many installations of Silage Safe across mainland Europe, most are in livestock operations and all are on a smaller scale than the Headings’.
He says: “Huesker is a large manufacturer involved in civil engineering as well as various agricultural products, so was perfectly placed to take a different perspective on the challenge of silage preservation.
“They realised that leading farmers and growers understood how much forage they were potentially losing through poor compaction and sealing, and they had the technology to address this through a completely new approach.”
Distribution of Silage Safe in mainland UK is exclusively through Kelvin Cave Ltd.