The effects of flooding can last throughout silage feedout. Crops damaged by any weather event — from flooding to hail or drought — are more prone to mold infestation and subsequent toxin production.
Once producers see mold growth, much of the crop’s digestible nutrients have already been used by yeasts, which grow first and cause heating. In some cases, mold may produce mycotoxins, which can bring down production, affect herd health and fertility and even be a food safety hazard.
Mycotoxins are produced by specific molds and can cause serious problems in cattle ranging from reduced feed intake to a suppressed immune response. It’s virtually impossible to completely avoid mycotoxin exposure, as the toxins can be produced both in the field on the growing crop and during storage. In high-risk situations, when the crop has been damaged or stressed, the potential for mold infestation increases significantly.
Unfortunately, producers can’t control what happens to the crop in the field. To help minimize spoilage in the silage, producers can use forage inoculants and focus on good management practices.
Silage inoculated with Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 will be more resistant to heating and spoilage. This inoculant reduces yeast levels, the initiators of spoilage. L. buchneri 40788 applied at 400,000 CFU per gram of silage or 600,000 CFU per gram of high-moisture corn (HMC), has been uniquely reviewed by the FDA and allowed to claim improved aerobic stability.
Covering or sealing silage can help reduce oxygen exposure and further reduce the opportunity for spoilage.
During feedout, discard visibly moldy silage. Feeding even small amounts of spoiled silage has been shown to damage the rumen mat1 — where fiber degradation in cattle occurs. When rumen function is impaired, cattle aren’t able to absorb nutrients from any feed sources well.
1 Whitlock LA, Wistuba T, Siefers MK, Pope RV, Brent BE, Bolsen KK. Effect of level of surface-spoiled silage on the nutritive value of corn silage-based rations. Cattlemen’s Day 2000. Accessed May 21, 2015. Available at: http://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2097/4652/cattle00pg22-24.pdf?sequence=1.