What is the correct way to stack round bales of silage?

In recent years, more and more baled silage has been made and this year is no different. Tractors and balers have been busy in fields right across the country in recent weeks, as favourable conditions for silage making prevailed.

As the fine weather continues, farmers are – and will be – busy working the fields over the coming weeks.

Whether it be a beef, dairy or sheep enterprise, farmers have improved their skills when it comes to managing out the most valuable and cheapest feed source – grass. This has led to surplus paddocks being closed and cut as high-quality bales.

However, when it comes to storing these bales: What is the correct and safest way to do so? While farmers’ opinions will differ on this topic, both Teagasc and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) have the following guidelines.

Firstly, if space allows, it is best to store all round bales one high on their flat ends. But, this may not always be practical – especially in recent years where yards may have been extended due to expansion.

According to Teagasc, unwilted bales should be stored on the ground (on curved side or flat end) whereas successfully wilted bales can be stored two or three high (on curved side only) if suitable handling equipment is available.

If round bales must be stacked the safest stacking method is on their curved sides in a pyramid stack.

Image source: Teagasc

In addition to this, the bales on the outside of the bottom row should be prevented from moving by means of chocks or other supports.

The maximum height of the stack should be three bales high and anything higher than this should be avoided. Where the bales are not very dense (unwilted hay) or soft (below 35% dry matter (DM) in wrapped silage), the maximum height of two bales is advised.

Bales with a lower DM can be heavier and should be stored in a single layer as they can squash bales at the bottom of the stack – which can stretch film or cause stability issues.

The stacking of round bales on their ends is not recommended as bales can have a tendency to shift due to the variable density of the material in the bale.

Storage of round bales on their ends or sides in a single layer on the ground can be permitted provided that the ground is level.

Safety must be a top priority. While freshly-wrapped stacked bales may seem ‘structurally sound’, bales can sag and move over time and may become hazardous.

Finally, it goes without saying, but children should not be allowed to play with or on top of bales.