Drive-over piles are a common silage storage structure. A well-constructed silage pile can be one of the most economical choices for storing forage. However, drive-over piles can be difficult to pack, which may result in dry matter (DM) losses. These disadvantages can be minimized with preparation before harvest and fast work during pile construction.
First, choose a location with proper drainage. The pile should be located on a non-porous floor — such as cement, tarmac, etc. — with sufficient slope to carry rain and snowmelt away from the pile.
Next, the pile dimensions must be sized to provide storage for the amount of forage being brought in, ensuring that the face dimensions allow the target feedout rate to prevent heating. Spreadsheets for calculating pile dimensions are available online.
Pack forage continuously during harvest time. This helps achieve an anaerobic environment, getting the fermentation started as quickly as possible to reduce DM losses. The minimum recommended packing density is 44 lb/ft3 on a fresh weight basis or 15 lb/ft3 at 35 percent DM.
In addition, use a progressive wedge technique for pile construction. This maximizes packing efficiency and safety and minimizes the surface exposed to air. Aim for a 4:1 run-to-rise ratio or higher. Packing equipment should be operated continuously throughout chopping with forage distributed in layers that are, ideally, no more than six inches thick to achieve good packing densities.
Additional detail on creating a drive-over pile is available in a five-minute video available from Lallemand Animal Nutrition.
Finally, always construct the pile safely. Piles and bunkers should never be filled higher than unloading equipment can safely reach. This sets producers up for safe feedout later upon opening.
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