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Storage characteristics, nutritive value, and fermentation characteristics of alfalfa packaged in large-round bales and wrapped in stretch film after extended time delays1

Coblentz, W.K., Coffey, K.P., Chow, E.A.
Journal of dairy science 2016 v.99 no.5 pp. 3497-3511
alfalfa, alfalfa silage, ammonium nitrogen, butyric acid, hay, lactic acid, nutritive value, oxygen, packaging films, plastic film, polyethylene, risk, silage fermentation, storage quality, storage time, temperature, weather
The production of baled silage is attractive to producers because it offers advantages over dry hay, particularly by limiting risks associated with wet or unstable weather conditions. Our objectives were to test the effects of delayed wrapping on silage fermentation, storage characteristics, and the nutritive value of baled alfalfa silages. To accomplish this, large-round bales of alfalfa were wrapped in plastic film within 4h of baling (d 0), or after delays of 1, 2, or 3 d. A secondary objective was to evaluate a prototype bale wrap containing an O2-limiting barrier (OB) against an identical polyethylene wrap without the O2 barrier (SUN). Sixty-four 1.19×1.25-m bales of alfalfa were made from 4 field blocks at a mean moisture concentration of 59.1±4.3% with a mean initial wet bale weight of 473±26.4kg. Two bales per field block were assigned to each combination of bale wrap (SUN or OB) and wrapping time (0, 1, 2, or 3 d postbaling), and one bale of each pair was fitted with a thermocouple placed in the geometric center of each bale. All bales were sampled after a 97-d storage period. Internal bale temperatures, recorded at the time bales were wrapped, were greater for all bales with wrapping delays compared with bales wrapped on d 0 (54.9 vs. 34.9°C), and increased to a maximum of 63.9°C after a 3-d delay exhibiting a linear effect of time delay. Total silage fermentation acids (lactic, acetic, propionic, butyric, and isobutyric) were greatest when bales were wrapped on d 0 compared with all bales wrapped with time delays (4.64 vs. 2.26% of DM), and declined with linear and quadratic effects of wrapping delay. Total fermentation acids also were related quadratically to internal bale temperature by regression [y (% of DM)=0.0042x2 – 0.50x + 17.1; R2=0.725]. Similar responses were observed for lactic acid, except that trends were linear, both for orthogonal contrasts evaluating length of wrapping delay, and in regressions on internal bale temperature [y (% of DM)=−0.046x + 3.5; R2=0.663]. Butyric acid also was detected, regardless of treatment, but was greatest within bales wrapped on d 0 compared with those with wrapping delays (0.99 vs. 0.38% of DM), and a similar response (0.68 vs. 0.52% of DM) was observed for NH3-N, suggesting that clostridial activity occurred during silage fermentation. Based on these results, silage fermentation characteristics and the nutritive value declined with time delays before wrapping, but responses were exacerbated when delays exceeded 1 d.