Enzymes: Fueling ‘Good’ Bacteria in Silage Fermentation

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Enzymes in silage inoculants help generate sugars for the inoculant bacteria to use for growth and fermentation. Enzymes essentially provide fuel for the “good” bacteria, which drives a fast, effective forage fermentation.  

In addition to fueling bacteria, some enzymes have been shown to have positive effects on silage digestibility. Studies have shown improvements in neutral detergent fiber (NDF) digestibility1 and increased digestion in rumen fluid2 due to specific enzyme activity. Using specific, targeted enzymes can help make fiber in the plant more accessible in the rumen. However, some enzymes may break down the cellulose itself, which steals energy from cattle and can increase the risk of runoff and associated dry matter losses.

Two things dictate total enzyme activity in the silage environment: 

1.    The amount of active enzyme present
2.    The time in contact with the forage

In silage, enzymes have a long contact time – often several months. The acidic conditions in silage are near optimal, allowing enzymes to work at a high rate. Therefore, a little bit of enzyme can go a long way. 

Producers should look for an enzyme activity guarantee on the inoculant product label. Guaranteed levels of enzymes should be declared, and they should be the same as those used in trials to validate product efficacy. It’s best to assume enzymes aren’t present if guaranteed levels are not provided – even if enzyme sources are listed in the ingredients. 

There is a list of enzymes and sources approved by Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for use in animal feeding. Be aware that, for some people, certain enzymes can be allergens. Therefore, it’s important to handle products containing enzymes carefully. Producers should do so in a well-ventilated area, wear gloves and avoid inhaling product particles or dust. 
    
For additional information on enzymes in silage, watch this Fact or Fiction video, visit www.qualitysilage.com or follow the Quality Silage Experts on Facebook.

1 Kung. Effect of Enzymes on the Fermentation and NDF Digestion of Corn Silage. Unpublished. 2010
2 Davies, Z. S. et al., Animal Feed Science and Technology 83 (2000) 205-221


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