The housed period has begun on farms, with silage pits now being opened to feed stock for the winter ahead, so one factor to consider is silage quality. Farmers will have worked hard to preserve the forage in the pit so limiting the amount of spoilage caused when feeding is important. There will always be some spoilage, with the shoulders usually being the most common area and cattle will also reject a certain amount.

Silage quality

Ideally the face of your silage pit should be used in one week. A long narrow pit is better than a wider faced pit.

The wider the pit, the longer it will take to eat the face, which can lead to increased spoilage. If you have not already done so, you should sharpen your shear grab, to keep the face of the pit tidy and ensure a clean cut.

A blunt shear grab will leave an uneven face which will allow increased air flow through the pit and accelerate spoilage.

Mouldy silage

The feeding of mouldy silage to dairy cows or youngstock is not advised. The feeding value of mouldy silage is decreased, but more importantly it can have a negative impact on animal health.

Listeriosis is one disease that can affect cattle from eating mouldy silage. It is more commonly seen in youngstock.

Listeria can cause abortion, eye infection and brain disease. It is caused by the Listeria monocytogenes and is a zoonotic disease. An issue with listeria in the herd could have a major financial impact on the farm.


In many farmyards the height of silage pits this year is noticeable, with many exceeding well beyond the top of the walls and safety barriers. Removing tyres and the plastic sheeting regularly is important, if you expose too much silage spoilage will be increased.

Little and often is the best approach for the silage pit cover.

But safety is important when removing the sheet and tyres, ideally this job should only be completed when there is two people on the farm. Not only will this make the job easier, it will also make it safer, so if something was to happen the alarm can be raised. Over the winter the black sheet can become wet and slippy which could lead to an accident. A fall from height could cause a serious injury so caution is advised.