Driving Front-End Fermentation

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A fast, efficient front-end fermentation is one the keys to creating high-quality silage. This helps to quickly reduce the pH of the forage, stabilize the silage environment and reduce yeast growth, which is the major cause of silage heating.

After the crop is cut, the plant cells continue to respire, using up sugars required for fermentation, reducing dry matter (DM) recovery and compromising silage quality. Respiration will continue until the oxygen supply is depleted. Packing and sealing crops helps minimize the oxygen available, while the use of research-proven inoculants accelerates oxygen consumption,  reducing the potential for yeast and mold growth.

Once the oxygen is gone, the ensiling fermentation begins. The production of lactic acid by lactic acid bacteria (LAB) bacteria is the main driver for lowering pH. Getting the pH below 5 as quickly as possible is essential to reduce DM and nutrient losses, stop plant enzyme activity and prevent bad fermentations. LAB are present on the forage at harvest naturally, but the strains naturally present vary widely in fermentation efficiency. Their numbers can vary greatly, as do the numbers and varieties of detrimental microbes. These are some of the reasons why using a research-proven forage inoculant is recommended.

Research-proven forage inoculants can help ensure silage hits the pH targets as quickly as possible to promote stability, retain DM and maximize nutrient preservation. The LAB Pediococcus pentosaceus 12455 provides an efficient, fast fermentation fueled by sugars generated by high activity enzymes.

At feedout, silages are once again exposed to air and this can lead to heating and spoilage losses due to residual yeast populations. To minimize heating and spoilage losses, be sure to use good feedout management: avoid removing silage too far ahead of feeding; do not leave silage sitting in loose piles; and feed out at a rate fast enough to avoid heating.

Inoculant choices can also help protect silage through feedout. For example, some inoculant formulations contain both P. pentosaceus 12455 and the high-dose rate Lactobacillus buchneri 40788, which is the only inoculant bacterium reviewed by the FDA and allowed to claim improved aerobic stability of silages and HMC. This combination helps address both front-end fermentation and feedout stability challenges, so that the maximum amount of highest quality hygienic feed makes it from the field to the animal.

For additional information, visit www.qualitysilage.com or Ask the Silage Dr. on Twitter or Facebook.