FREE Ground Delivery on qualified items for orders over $100. Learn More »

Premier 1 Supplies logo
Electric Fence Sheep & Goat Equipment Poultry Supplies
Bale feeding equipment for sheep

Sheep can be wasteful if they can feed from a bale unhindered. Big bale feeders allow access, while reducing the amount a sheep can pull out at once. This significantly reduces waste and utilizes more of the bale.

Can sheep eat baleage?
By Dr. Dan Morrical Ph.D., Small Ruminant Nutritionist
Bale feeding
Stan Potratz (Premier’s founder, left) and Dr. Dan Morrical (center) discuss the merits of baleage with visiting Iowa State University students.

Over the past year much of the Midwest has seen some of the wettest weather in the 124-year history of the weather service. For those that have tried to make a dry first cutting, it has been an extreme challenge. I recently spoke with a sheep producer in Ohio who was trying to get their first cutting made the last week in June. This forage will be well past its prime maturity, so we know that the feed quality will be poor. However, we also know the weather controls when you can cut and bale dry hay.

Poor hay making conditions have led many to Premier’s Sheep Advice service to ask about high-moisture baleage and small ruminants.

Is baleage an acceptable substituate for dry hay?

When done correctly, baleage makes excellent feed. At Premier we have been making and feeding baleage for 10 years. Over that time, the average forage test on Premier baleage (22 samples) was 57.7% dry matter, 15.1% crude protein and 61.1% total digestible nutrients. To that point, our hair cross ewes in early to mid-gestation get hog-fat on unlimited intakes of baleage over the winter. If the baleage is mostly grass, you will need to supplement calcium in late gestation and lactation.

There are two significant benefits to harvesting baleage: increased protein and energy content, and very little storage losses. Big round bales have storage losses approaching 40% with string wrapped bales and net wrapped lose 25 to 33%. Baleage has than 10% storage loss.

Producers need to become familiar with the key points of making quality baleage:

  • The most important factor for making quality baleage is harvesting as close to 50% moisture as possible. That moisture level creates an environment for the most complete fermentation and drop in pH (lower pH means a higher acid content). If fermented properly, baleage should test below a pH of 5.5. However, with this growing season weather, simply getting it baled and wrapped is considered a success. (See chart below for more information about silage fermentation.)
  • The next critical aspect is to make bales tight and use at least six complete wraps of plastic. If storing over eight months, add two more layers (8 total) for added protection. The bale fermentation process is anaerobic (no oxygen), tight baling and tight wrapping limits the amount of oxygen present. Bales need to be monitored for holes or tears. Patching holes and tears is critical to prevent losing the whole bale to spoilage. Use a vinyl bale tape to patch. Duct tape is insufficient, it’s gas permeable and will not seal the plastic.
  • Baleage that was harvested and wrapped too wet does not ferment correctly and can lead to high bacterial counts of undesirable microbes. Baleage that is put up too dry (<35%) does not ferment correctly either and spoils quickly once the wrap comes off. If the pH measures 5.0-5.5 and under, feed the baleage within 7 days (less is better). If above 5.5 with evidence of white mold, consider composting the bales as the risk of ewe-health and death loss offset the value of the spoiled bales.
  • When making baleage do not have the tines of the rake or baler set too low. Why? If they pick up dirt, they can introduce non-desirable bacteria into the windrows or bales, causing spoilage.

Baleage makes sense for those who have equipment that can handle the wet, heavy marshmallows (a nickname for the wrapped bales). Increased nutrient yield per acre with baleage nears 40% when one considers storage and harvest losses.

Silage fermentation process
(moisture between 40–60%)
Silage fermentation chart

Additional Resources:

Baleage Storage Methods
Premier prefers individually wrapped bales primarily for their ease of transport between farms.
Tube wrapped bales require less plastic, but aren’t easily transported.
We protect baleage from varmints with electric netting to prevent punctures and spoilage.
Maximize Your Feed and Grazed Forage
Vitamin ADE Premix
Vitamin ADE Premix — from $5
A vitamin premix for livestock. Add to small batches of sheep and goat rations to maximize flock health and immunity.
Mineral Premixes
Mineral Premixes — from $5
A complete trace mineral premix for goats and sheep that supplements insufficient rations.
Kane Mineral Feeder
Net Fence Starter Kits — from $377.44
A complete kit with energizer, roll of netting, support posts and a tester to help folks rotationally graze their pastures.
Ask A Sheep Expert
Sheep Questions?
Get answers from experts
NEW! Premier has partnered with Pipestone Veterinary Services to offer advice from our combined group of sheep experts. Looking for ration advice? Dr. Morrical can help you customize a mineral for your situation.
July 26 & 27 — A New Direction in Sheep Breeding
Clay County Fairgrounds, Spencer, IA
(Held in conjunction with the NSIP Center of the Nation Sale)
Premier’s on-staff small ruminant nutritionist Dr. Dan Morrical will present on sire selection for commercial flocks and how to select rams using Estimated Breeding Values to maximize profit.

For more information, please contact Brenda Reau, USSA Director at 734-755-8282 or
Come see us at the Mother Earth News Fair!
August 3–4 — Albany, OR
September 13–15 — Seven Springs, PA
Shop by Species »
Sheep Goats Poultry Horses Wild Life Deer Cattle Pigs Camelids
Questions? Call Us.
Local: 319-653-7622
Fax: 800-346-7992 or 319-653-6304
Business Hours:

Monday - Friday: 7 am - 5:30 pm CT
(January - December)

Saturday: 8am - 12 noon CT (March - September) and Closed (October - February)

Sunday: Closed

© Copyright 2019 Premier1Supplies
2031 300th Street, Washington, Iowa 52353

Contact Us