It is always nice to have a buffer of silage left in the pit at the end of the winter.

In years like this, it can be invaluable, as we have seen a lot of farmers having to rehouse stock for periods of poor weather of late.

However, when it comes to bringing in this year’s crop of silage, it can be difficult to know what to do with the last few benches of last year's pit.

Is it best to flatten it out so that it is a thin layer at the bottom of the pit, or would it best to simply build this year’s pit up against it?

Flatten old pit

The answer will depend on the amount of silage sitting leftover from last year.

Where this is a small amount, say only two or three benches, then it probably makes most sense to flatten it out prior to bringing in this year’s crop.

Build up to old pit

On the other hand, if you are sitting looking at a significant carryover of silage, then it may be best to leave it as it is and build up to it.

Introducing air to preserved silage is not something we want to do, as it can cause silage to start to heat – burning the energy in the feed. Therefore, disturbing a large amount of silage is not ideal.

This year’s pit can be successfully built up to the existing face of the pit, using it as the back wall of this year’s clamp.

However, in order to do this, you must be confident that the new pit will exceed the height of the old pit, so that it can be covered adequately and as much air is eliminated as possible.

Pros and cons

There are merits to both approaches. If there is a significant amount of silage sitting in the yard, why add the extra labour of having to flatten the pit?

For pits that can be opened from either end, leaving it in one pile allows you the option to feed this silage first next winter, or if it is of much higher quality than the silage made this year, it can be targeted at priority stock groups such as yearlings, autumn-calving cows or spring cows once they have calved.

One exception to this rule would be where the quality of the leftover silage is poor.

Spreading it out at the bottom of this year’s clamp would allow you to use it up a little at a time without significantly affecting the overall quality of the diet being fed.

In all cases, any mouldy or heating silage should be removed and dumped prior to this year’s silage coming in.

Leaving it there can contaminate new silage, causing it to heat, which will ultimately lead to more wastage.