Originally Posted by kmorisett
I am wondering if anyone knows if goats do well on haylage. I can get wet bales of pure alfalfa, and I used to use them for my calves. I switched to dry grass hay when I got my goats because I was worried about the small amount of mold that you always have with haylage. What do you all think?
Baled hay silage is good food -- the leaves are supple and do not shatter. Even the stalks are tender and juicy. They tend to weigh about twice what normal hay bales weigh -- so make sure you have a heavy-duty tractor of your own, or have them placed exactly where you want to feed them. My hay bales weigh 800 lbs each, the baleage about 1600 lbs, so I have them delivered and placed exactly where they will be fed in the winter.
If you are feeding baleage in winter, you may find that you don't need to provide as much water - in fact, when animals switch quickly from hay to silage, they may get diarrhea from the sudden increase in moisture-content.
If properly made ( cut hay is slightly dried, but not too much, and baled tight before wrapping and sealing air-tight) the bales will ferment properly and preserve the right nutrients without spoiling or growing bad bacteria. Any punctures must be sealed up tight as soon as noticed to avoid growing listeriosis and other noxious things.
Early in the winter, your summer-baled silage will smell fragrant with grass, wild-flowers, and alcohol when opened fresh. It can sometimes smell somewhat like sauerkraut. Later it will smell like barnyard odors and look like tobacco when opened -- the animals still love it! Use it up before warm weather, if possible.
I only feed it to dairy animals in the winter, because I do not have a large herd or flock (dairy sheep) and it is best when fed fresh. Warm weather and air exposure encourage the growth of those bad bacteria and molds. At a grass-raised meat conference, a 70+ year old farmer mentioned that the white mold is not so bad, pink isn't bad, the colorful or dark molds are more troublesome. Only time he ever had trouble was when he let someone else pack his silo with hay and they left too much air in the mixture. Buy from someone who has experience making this type of silage, packs it air-tight, and uses it for dairy cows. Only feed it in cold weather, unless you have enough animals to eat it and dispose of it within 3 days of opening.
Listeriosis bacteria is in the soil and air -- it happens to your animals when the bale contains too much air, not enough moisture, is punctured and not quickly re-sealed, or sits out in the open in warmer temperatures. In the North, feed it between October and March for best results. I've fed it earlier and later some years, but depending on temperatures and handling, that could be risky. You will notice your animals being "off" if they get listeriosis -- it happens very quickly, and then they usually die quickly. Pull any animal that acts "off" from your dairy line. Or just make sure you buy from a reliable bale-maker, and only feed the stuff in cold weather unless you have enough animals to finish it off quickly. Thousands of dairy farmers in the Great Lakes region can not be wrong. Ask you extension agent for advice if not sure.