We already know grain bagging is a great way to gain extra storage and increase profits by storing grain until prices are right, but is grain bagging a sustainable farming practice? Here we will look at 3 ways that grain bagging is in fact, sustainable.
1. Fuel. Grain bagging will reduce the amount of fuel you use during harvest- there is no back and forth to the grain bin, you can unload right into the bagger in the field and create an infield grain terminal for yourself.
2. Electricity. You will use less electricity if you bag grain because you will not have to use fans on your grain. The moisture level of the grain you put into the bag will be what you get out, not much happens to your grain inside the grain bag because the aerobic bacteria uses up what free oxygen is available inside the grain bag, and they expel carbon dioxide which increases CO2 and decreases the risk for deterioration which controls mold and insects.
3. Recycling. Grain bags are recyclable and there are several companies across the US and Canada that specifically recycle farm silage plastic and grain bags. Just a few of them are:
Revolution Plastics & EcoGenX
Other uses for recycled grain bags on your farm you can do yourself are: cover machines, plastic over garden for weed control and under machines that leak oil.
Never seen a grain bagger run before? Check out the video below from our farm last year harvesting soybeans.
Hay season is in full swing, so whether you are a first-time wrapper or have been wrapping for years, keep reading for a list of things you can do to make sure you get the best possible silage from your wrapped hay.
1.Wrap dense, compacted bales. For the best results, you want to wrap tight bales so that the plastic wrap fully encompasses the bale with no room for air pockets. Using the right baler is key, as well as using a balewrapper that fully covers the bale in plastic.
2. Wrap hay between 45-60% moisture. If you wrap your hay between this range you will have good silage that will have good feed value for approx. 1 year. This moisture level is needed to achieve optimal fermentation. The ideal time to mow is during the vegetative stage (just before it is all headed for grass, and for legumes when you see about 10% flowers.) Some good tips on which bales to feed first goes like this:
Feed First: bales that were wrapped at greater than 60% moisture
Feed Second: bales that were wrapped at less than 40% moisture
Feed Last: bales that were wrapped between 40-60% moisture
3. Put at least 6 layers of wrap on your bales. We see a lot of people try to save money by using less layers of wrap, but you are really doing yourself a disservice if you do this. In warmer climates, even 8 layers of wrap are recommended.
Choosing the right silage film is also important: you should pick a film that
-will last one year
-provides excellent oxygen barrier that will keep the CO2 inside the bale
Below is an easy chart of how to count layers based on rotations of the wrapper.
4. Be mindful of where you place your bales. You should place your wrapped bales on a level surface, away from trash, in a well-drained area. You should wrap uphill whenever possible and plan to wrap within 4-8 hours of cutting. You can store individually wrapped bales on their ends where the plastic is thicker whenever possible.
5. Monitor your bales. Just like you check your crop in the field, checking your wrapped bales is no different. Checking your bales for puncture holes regularly will help- and if you do see a hole, use repair tape to patch the hole. Patch tape for wrapped bales should be easily available at your local dealerships.
Adam, Bernard. 2017. “The How and Why of High Moisture Hay.” Tubeline Mfg.
Rankin, Mike. 2016. “Make baleage, not failage.” Hay & Forage Grower.
You might have heard of grain bagging or seen the long white plastic bags filled with grain along some farms across the countryside. Have you wondered what exactly is grain bagging or flexible grain storage? Keep reading.
Globally, grain bagging has been a success for over 30 years and we have personally been bagging grain on our own farm in Missouri for over 10 years. The two questions we hear most from newcomers are: what is flexi-grain storage (grain bagging) and what happens inside the bag once grain is bagged?
1. Richiger Flexi-Grain Storage is an integrated method whereby different kinds of grains can be stored and handled on-farm or in any suitably located site in a simple, secure and economical way by containment in large airtight plastic bags, with no constraints on the tonnage that can be stocked in this way. A large bumper crop or simply more grain to be put in storage after a good harvest means more bags to be filled, an auspicious state of affairs and a task easily handled by sturdy and reliable grain baggers in either 9 or 10ft wide forms. The system comes full circle when the formerly complicated and work-intensive job of transferring grain contained in the bags to truck or wagon is done swiftly and effortlessly with grain bag unloaders.
(Richiger, flexigrainstorage.com) (bagyourgrain.com)
Once your grain is stored, nothing happens to the quality of your grain and let me explain why. ( See diagram below) First, aerobic bacteria uses up free oxygen that is available in the bag, and the bacteria are expelling Carbon Dioxide, which increases C02. This decreases the risk of deterioration in your grain and also controls mold and insect infestation (animals cannot smell your grain from outside the bag, so unless you puncture a hole there is no need to worry about pests). There is no decrease in your grain grade due to shrink or oxygen degradation. So the quality of grain you put in your bag is what you will get out. The grain bags we sell (Plastar) are recommended for storage up to 24 months. All types of grain can be stored in our grain bags including soybeans, wheat, rice, corn. See the below video for a video of us bagging grain on our farm, and click the links below to learn even more about grain bagging!
If you are new to bale wrapping, considering bale wrapping, or have been wrapping and want to get an idea of how you are saving money, keep reading!
1. The first way you save money is your time=money. If takes approximately 9-12 minutes of time per bale depending on your swatch width to make silage/haylage as opposed to 22+ minutes of time per bale to make dry bales which includes mowing, tedding, raking, baling and moving bales. Whether you are paying for labor or doing it yourself, saving time means saving money.
2. The second way you save money by wrapping your hay is the fact that if you do not wrap your hay you will lose 1/3 of that bale. See the diagram below for a visual of how your dry hay loses value. The first 3” of the bale will be spoiled hay from being out in the weather and air getting to it (this is even if its stored in a barn). This equates to 1/3 of your bale being unusable because your cows won’t eat it and it’s of no nutritional value. By wrapping your hay, you are able to use the entire bale with better feed value for your livestock.
3. Piggybacking off the last point, it takes 25lbs of dry hay for cows to gain 1lb, whereas it only takes 8lbs of silage/haylage for a cow to gain that same 1lb. So you can save money by making your bales last longer if they are wrapped because not as much is needed in order for your livestock to gain weight.
4. You will save on fuel costs because, like mentioned in the first point, you will be spending less time overall with the whole wrapping process. This reduces your fuel costs, and is better for the environment.
5. Not only will you have better feed for your livestock, if you choose to sell your wrapped bales you will make a larger profit since the feed value is greater in wrapped bales. You can charge more for your bales because the customer will be getting a better product for their livestock.
There are many more reasons why bale wrapping is the most effective use of your hard work and best option for your livestock, so keep checking back for tips! Click on the link below for a useful guide to all things bale wrapping from Tubeline Manufacturing.
This article has been updated from a previous version.
Will you be bale wrapping for the first time this year? Wrapped hay before and just need a refresher course? Or simply interested in why wrapping hay is important? These are the most frequently asked questions we receive in regards to bale wrapping!
Why is silage better?
-baled silage is easier for cows to digest because the silage that comes from wrapped bales is slightly already digested per say because the lack of oxygen from the plastic wrap breaks down the lactic bacteria which turns the hay into usable energy.
-you can preserve your hay and keep nutrients inside until the day your livestock eats it
-consumption of hay will go up because your livestock will favor it against anything else, thus reducing your need for other cow feed and increasing the weight of your stock.
How will I save money?
Say you bale 500 bales a year. If you do not wrap your hay you can expect to lose 1/3 of that bale due to factors like spoilage and livestock sorting out the good parts of the bale and leaving the rest. If we know that alfalfa hay bales run about $200/ton and grass hay bales run about $75 a bale, if you take 1/3 of $75 for a grass hay bale, you have just lost $25 per bale if you do not wrap it. Thus, you take $25 x 500 (bales)= $12,500 loss because you did not wrap your hay. So with, say, $300 investment in plastic film, you can earn yourself a much better profit on your hay.
Here’s another example. For every 100 bales of dry hay forage, you need to make 133 bales (100bales / 75%= 133 bales) and if you put $300 worth of silage film on those 100 bales you will save 33 bales at approximately $40 each, 33x$40.00=1320.00 minimum value cost savings.
Each dollar invested in silage film in spring will save $4.00 or more in winter.
You can use this math as well to see how many years it would take in savings to earn you back what you paid for the hay wrapping machine.
What moisture do I need?
Moisture level is 40%-60% for grass, 40%-55% for legumes. This haylage will maintain its feed value for one year. If moisture level is 30%-40%, its not as good after 6 months, but perfect before, so feed first. If moisture level is more than 60%, feed as soon as possible within 6months. For a fast and effective way to test moisture levels, see the picture below on a fast microwave test that proves 100% accurate.
How many bales per hour can I wrap?
We cannot speak for all machines, but the machines we sell from Tubeline, McHale and Diamond single bale wrappers will wrap about a bale a minute, so between 50-60 bales per hour, while the Tubeline inline wrappers you can expect to bale 80-120 per hour.
How many layers of film should I use?
We recommend between 6-7 layers of plastic on hay, legumes cornstalks could need more. As far as single wrappers, in order to get 7 layers you will need to go 21 revolutions (you take the layers of plastic you want x 3 to get the revolutions needed)
What does it cost?
If you are wrapping single bales you can expect to spend $4-6 per bale on plastic wrap
If you are wrapping in line bales you can expect to spend around $3-4 per bale on plastic. The plastic can be obtained from your dealership or a local ag store.
What wrapper should I use?
We have a wrapper to fit your needs. We have in line and single bale wrappers, round and square bale wrappers, self-loading machines, 3point hitch or linkage machines, machines for smaller producers and for commercial, high output customers, and even baler/wrapper combination machines.
1. Feed silage.
For anyone who doesn’t know, silage (or haylage) is “high moisture hay, <60% moisture hay that has been wrapped air tight and allowed to ferment.” (Adam, 2017). What are the benefits of silage? You can increase your cows average daily gain because it only takes 8lbs of silage for a cow to gain 1 lb vs. dry hay that takes 25lbs to gain 1 lb. This also saves on feed cost. For more information this visit Here. You can also minimize storage loss of your hay bale because if you do not wrap hay you can expect to waste 25% of your bale due to spoiled hay from weather, which saves you money.
2. Feed chopped hay/silage.
Chopped hay creates less waste because its easier for the cow to eat in smaller pieces. Reducing waste always saves you money. They don’t have to work as hard to get the chopped hay out of the bale. With long stem hay the cow pulls out the long stems and then some falls on the ground, creating waste. Learn more here. Chopped hay is also easier for the cow to digest and they get the needed nutrients in a shorter period of time. Drovers online explains it like this, “Anything that decreases the particle size of forages also increases the surface area for the bacteria to attach, and this speeds up the rate of digestion, allowing the animal to get more nutrients in a shorter time.”
3. Use a TMR mixer.
Using a TMR mixer reduces sorting, so you know your cows are getting the exact ration you have created in your mixer- which also reduces waste. Also, it increases your cows overall nutritional health, because there are two different basic bacteria in a cow’s gut: one for breaking down cellulose and one for breaking down carbohydrate. If your cows are on a hay only ration and you slug feed them some carbohydrates, it causes a rapid change in the PH of the cow’s gut, throwing her off feed. By mixing your hay and carbohydrates in a homogenous mix with a TMR mixer, and letting the cow eat this every day, the gut stays in a stable PH resulting in better feed conversion.
Chris Finck [conversation to the author]. (2018, January 08).
Adam, Bernard. The Hows and Whys of High Moisture Hay. 2017
Fluharty, Francis. Increasing the digestibility of forages= Economic benefits. Drovers online. 2015.
Strip till has been benefiting farmers for years, but what exactly is strip till?
According to the USDA, “Strip-till is a system in which residue free strips of soil are tilled ahead of planting using a knife apparatus such as a fertilizer injection shank.” The American Society of Agronomy describes strip till as “Strip-till is in between the two systems (No Till and Conventional Till) where you combine the benefits of each.”
How can strip till help me?
1. Save Money on Fertilizer, Fuel and Labor: with strip till you can place fertilizer in a band, below where the roots of your crop will be, thereby increasing the efficiency of the fertilizer. Placing fertilizer in the same pass as tillage saves the extra cost of fuel in making less passes in the field. This will save on time and labor as well, because you will not be spending as much time in the field. (Jensen, 2018).
2. Increase Soil Health: Strip till “reduces soil erosion because most of the soil remains covered with crop residue. There is an increase in water filtration compared to conventional tillage, and also less carbon is released into the atmosphere which helps maintain higher levels of organic matter.” Overall, more organic life is left in the field due to the practice of less tillage and fertilizer being placed in bands. (NRCS, 2008)
3. Plant Earlier: Some studies have shown a temperature difference of 6 degrees higher in the strip into the month of June. When compared to No Till, Strip Till farmers report having been able to get in and plant their fields earlier because strip till makes for faster spring soil warm up and dry down. (Jensen, 2018).
4. Get Results: Yield advantages have been seen in continuous corn fields using strip till methods. “If you can get these soil properties to an optimal level they can allow the plant to grow with more ease, allowing it to focus its energy on yield.” (Korzekwa, 2015). See the image below of a 2004-2005 corn yield study by the University of Minnesota and North Dakota State University with various forms of tillage.
Want to Learn More? Below are some helpful links:
USDA Strip Till. Retrieved January 08, 2018. from
Benefits of strip-till surface after five-year study. (Korzekwa, Kaine). Retrieved January 08, 2018, from https://www.agronomy.org/science--news/benefits-strip-till-surface-after-five-year-study
Strip Till for Field Crop Production. Nowatzki, Endres, Hughes, Aakre. Retrieved Janury 08, 2018 from https://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/soils/tillage/docs/strip-till-for-field-crop-production.pdf
Nick Jensen Blog [E-mail to the author]. (2018, January 08).
Chris Finck [conversation to the author]. (2018, January 08).
Customer service has always been important to us, now we are changing the way we help customers in need, in the moments that matter. Our new Service Manager, Ted Finck, is also a pilot! Ted is now able to get a call from a customer, and if he cannot fix it over the phone (which he usually can!) he has the ability to fly directly to the customer, wherever he or she is in the United States and give hands on help and support on farm. He can get anywhere within our territory in approx. 1-3 hours. This is something that other distributors simply cannot offer. I talked with Ted about his experience and how he thinks this will help our most important people, our customers!
Tell me a little about your history in service and your history as a pilot?
TF: I have been taking things apart and doing maintenance for as long as I can remember. I’ve been a mechanic, done maintenance on the farm I grew up on, and working in a technical manner since I was a kid. As far as being a pilot, I have been flying since I was sixteen, that’s over 40 years in aviation. I have flown commercially and taught in aviation for 17 years.
What are you excited to work on with Show Me Shortline?
TF: I am excited that now we can offer something to customers that they didn’t have before, rapid response technical support. We can get anywhere in our territory within 1-3 hours and provide support when it is essential to getting their grain stored, getting their hay baled, or any other problem that arises with our products. We can also give our dealers extra support if they are out in the field with a customer. I am an expert in troubleshooting, and now we can do that either over the phone, with FaceTime, or by me flying to their location quickly and resolving issues. I know what it’s like to be broke down in a field and so I understand the importance of rapid response.
Watch one customers response below!
Why spread manure?
Spreading manure on your fields can help you in many ways, firstly it can increase your crop yields by putting the appropriate amount of nutrients into the soil that allows the crop to grow better. Since nitrogen is one of the most common limiting nutrients in producing crops, its important to make sure you are putting nitrogen back into the soil. Manure for example is high in nitrogen and other nutrients like phosphorus and potassium which is a source of protein for microorganisms in the soil (UMassAmherst).
Spreading manure can reduce fertilizer costs as well. It can also be great if you are an organic farmer. And if you are worried about runoff and EPA regulations, make sure to choose a manure spreader that spreads consistently where you want it to and doesn’t leave large clumps in areas you didn’t intend. For more info check out https://www.epa.gov/agriculture/agriculture-nutrient-management-and-fertilizer#Manure
When to spread manure?
This picture below from University of Wisconsin-Extension describes the best times to spread manure to various fields.
Who else spreads manure?
Check out the video below to see how one customer in Arkansas won his divisions corn yield contest with help from a Tubeline manure spreader.
We woke up this week to customers calling in saying that DP (delayed pricing) charges at the grain elevators in the Midwest and Delta were hovering around 45 cents-$1 for soybeans when prices are usually around 15 cents until December (5 cents a month).
These are higher than expected prices, thus causing producers to quickly consider bagging grain for the first time. It doesn’t take long to pay for a grain bagging system at these rates. For example, if you have 300,000 bushels of soybeans, at 45 cents a bushel to store until December, that’s $135,000 the terminal will charge in real money. That more than pays for all the equipment you would need to bag your grain this season. And then you have a leverage tool (grain bagger) which you can use in other seasons.
When storage is backed up, DP prices are high and you feel like you have no other option than to dump it at the terminal, remember you have the option to bag your grain. Then you can wait until the price is right, and grain bagging only costs you approximately 7 cents a bushel.
Let me make another point that I’ve made on the blog before: Remember that it’s called a grain terminal (or elevator) for a reason- terminal= where your control over your grain ends.
Even if you have a smaller DP charge locally than the ones we are seeing here in the Midwest/Delta, once you give it to the terminal, you lose control over your grain.
Bagging grain gives you the leverage to sell when you are ready, for low storage costs of approximately 7 cents a bushel for the bags.
We are bagging this week in Missouri to avoid high DP charges, watch the video below from our farm! Happy Harvest!