Winter Feed Handling

Find out all you need to know about handling supplementary feeds such as silage and fodder beets.

Silage Handling and Storage

All you need to know when handling stack silage

opened silage stack

Silage has long been the flagship supplementary feed on Australian and New Zealand dairy farms, with a higher energy value per hectare than hay and a lower cost to grow than many other crops.

It’s also easy to grow, easy to harvest, but also easy to lose all of these benefits if your storage and handling system is not up to spec!

Why worry about silage handling and storage?

When grass is ensiled the sugars are convert into lactic acid which pickles the grass. This ensures the silage can be preserved for extended lengths of time for feeding out in times of feed deficit without losses in feed quality. A well-preserved grass silage at time of feed out can be of similar quality to what it was in pasture at the time of harvest! This helps to point out the importance of proper storage and handling methods.

"Well preserved silage at time of feeding out can be of similar quality to when it was in pasture at harvest"

Maintaining quality and preventing losses in grass silage all comes back to your ability to isolate it from air from the time of harvest to feeding out.

Each time silage is exposed to air the silage heats up as microorganisms use the sugars and protein you preserved through the ensilation process to begin aerobic spoilage, this turns silage into heat energy and results in lost feed value and quality.

Feeding out spoiled and moldy silage is highly advised against, doing so can cause the following issues:

  • Decreases dry matter intake
  • Decreases milk production
  • Interrupts rumen functions
  • Causes reproductive & health issues.

Including spoiled silage in the feed ration at rates as little as 5% can have serious effects on your stock as described above.

Rata Silage Grab holding stack silage on Massy Ferguson tractor

How to decrease dry matter loss and spoilage in stack silage

Preventing dry matter loss and spoilage in stack silage all comes back to your stack face management. It has been advised that you open the stack at the opposite end of any prevailing winds as this can help to prevent air penetrating into the stack under the cover. Read the below pointers for some highly effective stack management tips:

  • Cover the stack face tightly each day, the only exception to this is on the occaisional dry day when you may leave it open to prevent heat building up.
  • Feed every bit of silage taken off the stack, avoid having loose material around the bottom of the stack, this will spoil and in turn become unusable, even it its fed out it can cause serious production & health issues in both dairy & beef stock.
  • Cut and feed at least 50cm of the stack face every day, so silage is not exposed to air for more than 24hrs, one strategy here is to calculate your anticipated feed rate at the time of making the stack and build it to the width & height that allows you to feed out 50cm deep of the face and across within 3 days.
  • Do not advance feed silage by more than 24hrs, this is particularly so in the summer months
  • Start feeding out from the top of the stack, working downwards and across to feed evenly.
  • Leave the stack face as clean & sealed as possible, sealed stack face results in lower stack face porosity. Using the right silage handling attachement helps to keep the stack face clean and sealed which prevents silage spoilage.

 Find out what size silage grab will suit your tractor or telehandler best

Silage Grab Guide

Tips for Silage Bales

Principles for preventing dry matter losses and spoilage in wrapped silage bales (bailage) are largely the same as for stack silage, isolate from air!

Once the silage bales are wrapped ensure they are stored in a secure area free from potential damage. Store on the flat end of the bale and do not stack more than 3 high to prevent bales squashing under their weight and rupturing the wrap.

For more tips on effective bale handling check out the blog: How to stack and handle silage bales

It is also advised you always feed out whole bales or at least within 48 hours before secondary fermentation begins to occur. Some further tips to maintaining feed quality & preventing spoilage in wrapped bales:

  • Use a purpose built wrapped bale handler, do not fork or spike wrapped bales until time of feed out.
  • Repair any rips, tears or holes in bales while in storage

Always use a high quality wrapped bale handler to handle your wrapped bales, see how much $ worth of feed value these two farmers have saved by using the Rata Bale Clamp: The true value of a wrapped bale handler

Fodder Beet Lifting and Feed Out

All you need to know about lifting and feeding fodder beet

Rata Fodder Beet Bucket harvesting beets in southland

Fodder Beet has boomed in popularity as a supplementary feed among dairy farms in New Zealand, particularly in the South Island and some parts of the Central North Island such as the Waikato and Taranaki, some Australian dairy farmers in Victoria & Tasmania are beginning to include this into their supplementary feed system as well.

It’s very high yielding with extremely high amounts of energy which is a big plus in the colder southern climates, it’s fertilization requirements are also very low which further add to its benefits as a low cost crop to grow. However, fodder beet doesn’t come without its pitfalls.

Avoid the Fodder Beet pitfalls

If you are going to include fodder beet in your winter feed programme it’s important you develop and adhere to a transition programme to prevent acidosis issues arising in your stock. For information regarding a successful transition onto fodder beet read, How to transition stock onto Fodder Beet

Fodder Beet feed out options

When it comes to feeding fodder beet the two main methods are:

1. Feeding out via a wagon or mixer, means you can feed the exact amount of fodder beet required for your herd size throughout the transition and once transition is complete. Even when fully transitioned fodder beet should never be more than 70% of the cows total diet, feeding via feed wagons also means you can feed the remaining 30% portion of long fibre or starch at the same time as the fodder beet allocation. Feeding through a wagon or mixer also means you can avoid soil compaction issues associated with the other option of break feeding.

2. Break feeding, remains another fodder beet feeding method, although successful there are several risks to take consideration of when using the break feed method. Electric fences must work at all times and where possible run second live fence close to the feed out fence in case of break out, if stock break through the fence and gorge on the crop it can cause serious acidosis issues as lactic acid production in the cows rumen takes place, the result can be death. It is also important that stock consume both the roots & tops of beet leaves. If you choose to go down the break feed path make sure you consider the high soil compaction rates that occur (as with all break feeding).

“By feeding the crop out via a wagon or mixer rather than break feeding you eliminate the chance of stock breaking through & gorging on the high sugar crop”

Fodder Beet lifting options

If you have made the wise decision to feed via your wagon or mixer for greater control and security over the feed ration you will obviously need to harvest the fodder crop, options for this include mechanical harvesters or fodder beet buckets.

When harvesting fodder beet consider whether you anticipate storing the crop for any length of time before feeding out, if so, it is advised you remove the tops at the time of harvest. This is due to the tendency for tops to decompose within a short time and adversely affect the sugar beet bulbs. As fodder beet tops can comprise about 20% of your beet dry matter it is advised you leave them in the ground and harvest when required. Some independent dairy research organization also recommend feeding both the tops & the roots.

“Mechanical harvesting of fodder beets often requires the entire crop of beet to be harvested at one time, this also means you should be cutting the tops to prevent decomposition in storage”

A very popular option for harvesting fodder beets in New Zealand has been the ‘Beet Bucket’ this purpose-built fodder crop harvesting bucket enables farmers to lift beets out of the ground for feed out when required, this method allows farmers to keep their beets in the ground until required meaning they get to utilize the beet tops as well as the bulbs! This ensures 100% of the beet dry matter is utlised along with the flexibility and ration control enabled by feeding out through a wagon or mixer.


Use the Beet Bucket size guide to find what size bucket best suits your Tractor loader or Telehandler:

Beet Bucket Guide

Hay Bale storage and handling

All you need to know about storing and handling hay

Rata Hay bale forks

Hay Bales are much easier to handle and store than the likes of silage, simple Bale Forks and will handle hay bales with ease as spiking poses no issue to the bale, however much like any forage crop hay is still prone to dry matter losses and quality deterioration when it comes to storage.

The main thing you can do to protect hay bales against deterioration is to protect them from the elements, storing your hay under a shelter is advised to prevent contact with water, if a hay shed is not available alternatives such as wrapping or covering with a tarp are advised.

If bales are not protected against moisture & the elements water mold growth and spoilage will occur in your bales over time, take the followin steps to ensure your bales are protected.

  • Protect hay bales from the weather and water by wrapping or storing under a tarp or hay shed, also ensure they will be safe from water run off if stored out doors.
  • Do not sit bales directly onto bare soil, put down a tarp first to prevent water wicking into your bales
  • Ensure there is sufficient airflow around your bales to prevent moisture becoming trapped and causing mold growth.

Find the best Bale Fork to suite your Tractor loader or Telehandler here: Bale Forks for Tractors and Telehandlers

Palm Kernel Handling

All you need to know about handling Palm Kernel

Palm Kernel

Palm Kernel provides many farmers with another cost-effective supplementary feed due to it being a waste by product in the manufacture of Palm Oil. Palm Kernel provides high levels of protein, oil, minerals such as manganese, zinc and copper along with being extremely versatile when it comes to feeding out. Palm Kernel does not require specialist handling or mixing equipment and can be feed out directly through trailers and troughs, however if you decide to use it along with other supplementary feed you can feed it alongside silage, hay and other products.


When incorporating Palm Kernel into your supplementary feed programme ensure you store Palm Kernel in a dry location free from water and dampness, this is because of two reasons. Firstly Palm Kernel has a tendency to become significantly heavier when damp, secondly like any many supplementary feeds the presence of moisture can cause mold and toxin growth which in turn adversely affects cow health and production.

Palm Kernel is easily handled by any Tractor or Telehandler spec bucket, often Palm Kernel is tored and fed in high quantity's so large bulk handling buckets help to make the job easier, browse bulk buckets for Telehandlers here

If you are feeding Palm Kernel into a trough or feed pad and Auger Bucket can help to mix and dispense directly into the feed out area, check out the Rata Auger Bucket here

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