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Best Management Practices for High Quality Silage Production: What Does the Research Say?


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Project Overview

Successful milk production in Canada relies on high-quality forage, which is often stored as silage. The objectives of this project were to identify silage management practices that were associated with producing high quality silage, and to examine annual costs and gross margins across different silage systems across Canada.

What Did the Research Team Do?

Over 240 silage samples from three silage systems (bunker, conventional tower, and wrapped round bales) were compared to assess differences in quality parameters, fungal species and mycotoxin presence. An economic analysis was conducted to determine annual costs and gross margins for each of the three silage systems.

What Did the Research Team Find?

  • Good quality silage can be made in all types of systems! The key is to find what works best for you and your farm.  
  • Wrapped round bales were found to have slightly higher quality parameters than tower and bunker silos, though all three systems performed very well overall. 
  • Silage quality was improved with certain practices, such as using a bacterial inoculant, increasing legume content, harvesting earlier, and not using a mower conditioner.  
  • While the potential for mycotoxin production exists in silage, the vast majority of samples did not have active mycotoxin production and the risk to cattle is very low. 
  • Wrapped round bales had the lowest annual cost, with the highest gross margin of all 3 common silo systems. 

**Scroll down for project communication outputs**

Principal Investigators

Nancy McLean 
Dalhousie University 

Linda Jewell
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (St-John's) 


Kees Plaizier  
University of Manitoba 

Kim Ominski  
University of Manitoba 

Carole Lafrenière  
Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue  

Shabtai Bittman  

Emmanuel Yiridoe  
Dalhousie University

Key Words

  • Farm efficiency, sustainability, silage quality, silage management

Period: 2018-2023
Budget: $799,419

Last Updated: January 17, 2024

Funding Partners


VIDEO: Best practices for silage production: What does the research say?

Nancy McLean discusses the objectives and key findings of this research project.

Live Action Video (Project Summary)

VIDEO: How do silage management practices impact your farm?

Farmers discuss their own experiences with silage production in Nova Scotia.

Live Action Video (Farmer Experiences with Silage Production)

ANIMATED VIDEO: Understanding fungal spoilage and mycotoxins in silage 

Learn about Linda Jewell’s work examining fungi in silage across Canada.

Animated Video


Watch the recording of a virtual research showcase co-presented by Nancy McLean and Linda Jewell.

Virtual Research Showcase Recording
INFOGRAPHIC: Best Practices for Silage Production


Best practices for silage production: How to Maximize Quality and Minimize Cost



Nancy McLean sits down to discuss her research on silage quality and economics.



Linda Jewell sits down to discuss her research on fungi and mycotoxins in silage.