6 alternatives to using tyres for fodder conservation on your farm

Published 26th August 2021
Feeding All Studies

Tyres are a valuable and cost-effective resource used by many dairy farmers around the world for storing silage. Previously, farmers had an exemption to permit the use of tyres for covering fodder. This exemption is progressively disappearing for safety and environmental reasons and wherever you farm, it is more likely that you are impacted by new regulations. 

Just to give a few examples, recent fires across Australia has pushed regional governments to ensure that tyres are stored and used safely on farm. For instance, in the state of Victoria, a permit is now required for the storage of more than 5000 tyres. In the United States, most local regulations require a maximum amount of tires used on-farm and excess tyres beyond these limits that are not used within 18 months must be removed from the farm. In France, farmers have not been allowed to collect old tyres since 2015 while it was estimated that 800,000 tonnes of second-end tyres were used on French dairy farms.

Keys to good quality silage

Silage is a method of preserving fodder in a wet state in the absence of oxygen with an acidifying fermentative development.

The conditions for successful silage making depend on the quality of the silage, the construction of the silo and its preservation.

The rapid covering of the silo after the work has been done has the effect of putting the fodder in anaerobic conditions, which limits losses by respiration and prevents the development of fungi, moulds and yeasts.

Finally, to achieve good anaerobiosis, the silo must be tamped regularly during the work and the cover must be well sealed.

6 alternatives to using tyres with or without tarpaulin

With tarpaulin

1) Silo bags – On a 150 µm tarpaulin, tyres are replaced by silo bags in the form of sacks

After packing the silo well, install a new 150 µm tarpaulin. Protect the new cover by covering it with the previous year’s cover. previous year’s tarpaulin. Lay the silo bags on top as follows:

  • One row against the walls
  • One row in the centre of the tarpaulin
  • One row widthwise every 2 to 3 metres.

2) Rubber mats – On a 150 µm tarpaulin, rubber mats are used instead of tyres, positioned to ensure good support of the tarpaulin

After installing a system of 2 tarpaulins (one 40 µm and one 150 µm), cover the tarpaulins with rubber mats at a rate of one row of mats every 1.5 metres across the silo.
The mats are a good alternative to chippings as they stick better to the tarpaulin.
There is almost no loss of material even near the walls.
Note that the mats can become slippery in wet conditions.

3) Protective net – On a 150 µm tarpaulin, a protective net is placed and covered with silo bags

After packing the silo well, place a 40 µm tarpaulin (to be changed annually) over the silo. To protect it, place a woven net over the tarpaulin.
Place rows of socks across the width of the silo to hold the system in place (every 5 metres). 
These rows stop the spread of air when there is a hole in the tarpaulin.
Pay particular attention to holes in the net that would allow rodents to attack the very thin tarpaulin.

4) Geomembrane – A geomembrane is placed over a 150 µm tarpaulin and shaped to the silo

Place a new 150 µm tarpaulin over the previous year’s tarpaulin to protect it during handling.
Position the geomembrane on the silo by putting silo bags on top of it.
No losses are observed unless the geomembrane is punctured. However, mould only appears in the hole.

5) Geotextile – A geotextile covered with silo bags is placed on a 150 µm tarpaulin

Place a 150 µm (or 40 µm) tarpaulin over the silo. Cover the tarpaulin with a with a geotextile that insulates the tarpaulin. Place silo bags around the silo, close to the walls.
The geotextile can become mouldy in winter due to humidity (especially in the presence of water) but once the weather is fine, the mould disappears.

Without tarpaulin

6) Cover crops – A mix of cereals/crops is sown directly on the silo which, as it grows, will create a protective barrier that isolates the silo 

The setting up of the site is quite simple, but the packing stage is particularly important in this technique. Sow the seeds (about 2 kg per m²). Using a seeder allows the seeds to be distributed evenly and quickly over the entire surface of the silo.
The tractor passes one last time to push the seeds into the forage and that’s it!
No need to water. The plant cover is established in 8 days.


Advantages and disadvantages of each method 

Table chart

++ Excellent
+ Quite good
+/- Average


  Tyres Silo bags Rubber mats Nets Geomembrane Geotextile Cover crops
Annual cost + +/- +/- +/- +/- +/- ++
Less fodder waste +/- ++ ++ ++ ++ ++
Less foreign bodies ++ ++ ++ ++ +
Technical hassle (compared to tyres)   +/- +/- +/- +/- ++
Implementation time (compared to tyres)   + + + + + ++
Efficiency against pest and weather +/- + ++ ++ ++ +/-
Ease of handling (compared to tyres)   + +/- + + + ++
Landscape integration + +/- + + + ++
Space requirements (compared to tyres)   + + + + + ++
Production of hazardous waste + +/- +/- +/- +/- ++
Processing of used materials costs + +/- +/- +/- +/- ++