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Managing Effluent Runoff

In less-than-ideal harvest conditions, producers may be forced to ensile forages at high-moisture content. Early harvests — with moisture levels higher than 70% — can lead to increased effluent runoff. 

Also called seepage, it is the liquid squeezed out of forage after it is packed in an ensiling structure. Silage effluent is a high-nutrient liquid waste product with a high biological-oxygen demand (BOD), similar to liquid slurry. Effluent will no longer be produced once forage reaches  about 32% dry matter (DM) in silage bunkers or drive-over piles. 

If not properly drained, effluent adversely effects the fermentation of forage and can encourage the formation of undesirable acids and ammonia.

Typically, effluent has a pH between 3.5 and 5.0, making it highly corrosive to both metal and concrete and capable of damaging the silage storage structure. In addition, effluent run-off can cause environmental damage.

Excess effluent production can be prevented by:

  • Harvesting at a sufficiently high DM
  • Increasing the length of the forage chop at ensiling
  • Reducing the level of compaction of the forage
  • Including layers of adsorbent material, such as straw
  • Covering horizontal silos to reduce the prolonged flow of effluent

Effluent production can also be managed when designing a bunker or drive-over pile by: 

  • Locating silage-storage structures away from open waterways and wells
  • Preparing the ensiling site to divert water and effluent from the silage and toward a common collection and treatment point
  • Installing an effluent collector at the silo entrance to help control effluent run-off

Silage effluent also can be captured, diluted and used as a fertilizer but should be carefully managed — especially if mixed with slurry due to the potential production of hazardous gases, such as hydrogen sulfide. 

More information about properly storing silage can be found at


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By: Drovers

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