By Dr. Johannes Thaysen
Consultant for Fodder Conservation and Fodder Quality at the Agricultural Chamber in Schleswig-Holstein 

Influenced by factors such as the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, future developments in German agriculture will see further concentration and specialisation of farms and a growing amount of low-input grass for silage production. The rising performance of individual animals, and the resulting specific requirements, including an increase in horse keeping and low-input animal husbandry systems, will lead to a growing share of baled silage systems in the future. This does depend on the number of livestock and the resulting implications for the chosen system. By so doing, all advantages of bale silage systems will come into effect.

Key future developments will look as follows:

  • Decreasing excellence of all kinds of cattle fattening
  • Intensively operating forage-growing farms with extensive pastureland Winners will benefit of this development
  • Increasing concentration and specialisation of dairy farms
  • The price for milk-quotas will fall by 10 – 15 ct/kg (starting in 2005)
  • Concentration of cash crop production on better sites
  • Increase of areas with extensive farming systems
  • Increasing significance of the production of renewable primary products

At present about 20% of total grass silage is produced as bale silage in the form of round or square bales. The main advantage of bale silage is that grass of the second and following cuts can be used. In addition it is used for the production of horse silage and low-input animal husbandry, offering the possibility to sort fodder according to quantity and quality.

With the further concentration of milk production on larger farms on the one hand and the further increase in horse keeping and low-input animal husbandry on the other, the percentage of bale silage compared to clamp silage will increase. Benefits can be found in its flexibility, the small investment costs and quality advantages given if correct production practices are followed.

Depending on farm size, bale silage production is used by specialised dairy farms growing their own forage, for example to provide the best quality first cut grass silage for cows at the beginning of their lactation during the transition period between fall and winter.

Most maize and grain silage is presently stored in clamps. The increase in individual animal performance which can be expected in the future will require a sophisticated supply of different maize silage and grain qualities. These will be optimally matched to the demands of the lactation period in high-yielding cows.

So, for instance, it is more likely that silage which contains higher digestible plant material will be used in the high-yielding period as compared to the third and final stage of lactation. In this case, single bale production will also be used. Particularly in Southern Germany, there will also be smaller herds in the future which in many cases will be managed in part-time holdings. From an economic point of view, and also with regard to animal physiology, attention will be given not just to the feeding of single components but also to the supply of TMR (total mixed rations), in the form of single bales produced by balers which are already available today.

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