The advantages of a higher bale density

A bale of grass with higher density has multiple advantages. Fewer bales are needed to store the same amount of crop, which reduces the costs for transport, storage and film. But the greatest advantage is higher forage quality.  

Round bales with a 10% higher density – a calculation example 

A farmer has to bale 1000 tons of grass a year with an average dry matter percentage of 40%. With an average bale weight of 650 kg, the total is 1539 bales a year. If the baler is set to a higher baling pressure, the bale density increases. So, if the bale density is 10% higher on average, what is the result? 

Baseline calculation example: 

Amount of grass per year  1000 tons 
Average dry matter content  40% 
Bale diameter   1.3 m 

Low density: 

Average bale weight  650 kg 
Number of bales   1539 bales 

10 % higher density: 

Average bale weight  715 kg 
Number of bales  1399 bales 

In the example above, a 10% higher bale density adds up to 140 fewer bales per year for the same volume of silage. And there’s no need to use any film for those 140 bales. With film costing €99 for a roll of 1500 metres, the cost to wrap 6 layers of film is €4.501. Film binding costs €1.27 per bale2. The total cost for film is €5.77 per bale. This delivers a total saving on film costs of €808 per year. Using less film also lowers the environmental impact.  

Savings on film costs: 

Wrapping 6 layers of film3  €4.50 
Binding 3 layers of film4  €1.27 
The total cost for film per bale is  €5.77 
Annual savings  €808 

And, additionally, there are 140 fewer bales that need to be transported from the field to the yard and you save storage space for 140 bales. This gives a total annual saving of € 526 on transport and storage costs.  

Savings on transport and storage costs: 

Transport costs per bale5  €1.67 
Storage costs per bale6   €2.09 
Total transport and storage costs per bale  €3.76 
Annual savings  €526 

Less air, more and better forage

10% more grass in the bale replaces air, which results in less oxygen in the bale. Less oxygen in the bale is beneficial for a fast and effective preservation process. Some amount of energy and dry matter is always lost in the bale because sugars are converted into water and CO2 by bacteria that need oxygen. The less oxygen there is in the bale, the faster this process will stop so more dry matter and energy will be retained in the silage. A higher bale density also benefits good shape retention as the bale is less likely to collapse. If a bale collapses, the layers of wrapping can slip apart and allow oxygen to enter the bales between the film layers. This will restart the decomposition process leading to losses of dry matter and energy.

At least 2% loss of dry matter 

2% less of dry matter thanks to a higher bale density is a realistic assumption according to Sjon de Leeuw of agricultural consultancy PPP-Agro. In practice, the difference may even be much higher. In the example of 1000 tons of grass a year with a dry matter content of 40%, the total amount of dry matter is 400 tons. A 2% loss means 8000 kg more dry matter retention per year. At an average cost of €0.16 per kg of dry matter, this converts to a saving of €1,280 per year. The costs of producing the grass, such as fertilising, mowing and baling, have already been made. If additional forage has to be bought, then the costs of the dry matter losses are even higher.  

Savings through better preservation: 

Total dry matter per year  400 tons 
Lower dry matter loss in %  2% 
Lower dry matter loss in kg  8000 kg 
Forage costs per kg of dry matter7  €0.16 
Annual savings  €1,280 


‘Homegrown concentrate’

The greatest benefits are to be found in terms of agronomy. Better forage quality improves bale palatability which leads to a higher feed intake by the cows. Optimal preservation also reduces mould in the bales and lowers the health risks. This in turn lowers the costs for veterinary care. Higher quality forage makes it easier to maintain good milk production levels in dairy cattle.  

Fewer other ingredients have to be added to the feed to compensate, so it is easier to formulate a balanced ration. A good bale equals ‘homegrown concentrate’. 

Slightly more fuel may be needed to create a higher bale density, and there will be more wear and tear on the machine. But, in the majority of cases the advantages will outweigh these disadvantages.  

Summary of benefits

Financial benefits (calculation example): 

Savings on film costs : €808 

Savings on transport and storage costs : €526 

Lower dry matter loss : €1,280 

Total annual savings : €2,614 

Agronomic benefits: 

  • Better forage palatability à higher feed intake 
  • Less mould in the bale à lower health risks  à lower costs veterinary care 
  • Possibly easier to maintain milk production levels due to better forage quality  
  • A better bale a ‘homegrown concentrate’

Also read: 

Tedding Grass In 2023

Tedding grass for silage is becoming more and more popular every year. By cutting grass early in the morning and tedding the crop immediately after can make wilting speed five times faster. By tedding the grass it increases dry matter and preserves the concentration of essential nutrients for high quality silage. Livestock will benefit from this when feeding during the winter period.

KUHN offer several model specifications tedders from small single rotors to large sixteen rotors. Each model has unique features suited to certain farms and crop types. All of the machines have unique KUHN features that make it the best tedder on the market.


The patented DIGIDRIVE System is made from foraged case-hardened treated steel. This allows the farmer/contractor to work a wide range of angles making the crop easier to work.

It allows for 180 degree tight compact folding during transport and entering narrow gateways. The DIGIDRIVE System is maintenance free meaning there is very little downtime during the busy silage season.

Since the launch of the DIGIDRIVE finger drive system twenty years ago, more than a million rotors have been working all around the world, tedding forage with exceptional reliability.


Asymmetrical Tines For Clean Pick-Up

The KUHN Tedders tine length has a massive factor in the quality of tedding. The outer finger moves into the forage earlier and this ensures a more complete tedding process. This system works very well on the areas that can be difficult to work e.g. field borders. Better tedding leads to higher quality wilting which results in high bale quality.


Smaller Rotors = Advantage

When you think of small you may not always think of better. In this case KUHN’s smaller rotors has many advantages:

  • Improved ground following on uneven surfaces
  • Improved overlap between two rotors
  • Rotor is more inclined meaning improved forage turning
  • Higher quality forage spreading for better and even drying

Home-grown protein, make sure you feel the benefits!

The proportion of home-grown protein. In other words: the quantity of home-grown protein divided by the quantity of protein in the ration. Managing forage production effectively offers plenty of benefits to dairy farmers. “Poor management of the entire process, from producing the best first cut of silage grass to presenting the forage at the feed fence, can make a negative difference of around €7 euros per bale. Harvesting quickly and cleanly, then preservation in airtight conditions is vital,” says Sjon de Leeuw, management and strategy advisor at PPP Agro Advies.

A dairy farmer’s business model all depends on its farm management. De Leeuw: “Feed rations account for the biggest expense on a farm. Farmers feel the financial implications of buying minerals, concentrates and other ingredients. But one area they do have some control over is the production of protein.”

As much as possible from your own land

It is important to aim for the maximum protein yield from your own land, as this logically reduces the dependence on protein from external sources. Quantity and quality are both equally important here, as well as maintaining the right energy to protein balance in the ration. Too much protein can have a detrimental effect on the animals, so every farm aims for the optimum protein content in the bales or silage.

Influential factors on protein

“In practice, I regularly see wide variations in how much home-grown protein is produced on farms. In some cases, one farmer harvests less than 50 per cent protein from their own land while another farmer gets more than 65 per cent – even though the number of cows and hectares of grassland are the same. This suggests that farmers who produce more protein on their own land manage forage production and feeding far better,” says De Leeuw. According to the advisor, contributing factors include the harvesting method, the time of harvesting and the way of preserving. To ensure good preservation, the speed of harvesting and getting the grass wrapped airtight as quickly as possible are essential.

De Leeuw: “And bear in mind that the optimum dry matter content is around 40 per cent. You can work with percentages of 50 or higher, but that increases the risk of heating. But what makes this complicated is that the protein in drier grass is generally more rumen-resistant, i.e., of better quality. But the friction between drier grass increases the risk of heating.” One of the causes of heating is a higher dry matter content combined with inadequately sealed material. This effect can be amplified by a low face removal rate of the silage. The lower the removal rate, the longer the period that oxygen can enter the silage mass. And if oxygen is given free rein, heating will inevitably occur. Feeding bales uses up the forage faster, so the risk of heating in the bale is considerably lower than in silage.

Different bales for optimal rationing

The protein content of grass harvested in summer is often lower than in grass baled in autumn. The differences affect the ration and how the cow utilises that ration. De Leeuw: “To get an optimal percentage of protein from their own forage, it is important to mark the bales obtained from different harvests and have them analysed. This information means you know what you have and where it is stored. To keep the protein content at the same level, various bales can be mixed to create the ration. Autumn grass is best suited for dairy cattle. Provided it has been harvested properly, it is palatable and combined with a bale with an appropriately low protein content. A low-protein bale on its own is more versatile and can also be fed to pregnant or dry cows at any time.”