Silage is one of the key foundations for ensuring profitability, and the time to plan for next year’s silage success is now. One of the best ways to create more, and higher-quality, feedstuffs is to do a critical review of this year’s silage. Two of the major silage problems are:
- Shrinkage, or dry matter (DM) loss
- Heating, or aerobic instability
First, let’s address silage shrink. When DM losses occur, producers end up not only with less available feed but also lower quality in the feed that is left. That’s because the first components to be lost are the most digestible nutrients. There is no single solution to reducing silage shrink. It requires attention to detail and best management practices. Silage crops need to be harvested at the right moisture and stage of maturity, chopped to get the optimum length of cut, processed if necessary, inoculated, brought in quickly, packed well to drive out oxygen and sealed immediately after filling.
To help ensure a rapid and efficient fermentation, use an inoculant proven to provide a quick pH drop. This helps preserve maximum nutrient value and reduce yeast levels, therefore reducing the potential for silage heating at feed-out. The lactic acid bacteria Pediococcus pentosaceus 12455 provides an efficient, fast fermentation, including the production of yeast-killing acetic acid, fueled by sugars generated by specific high-activity enzymes.
Aerobic spoilage at silage opening is increasingly a major problem producers face in their silages. Whenever silage heats, the nutritive value is declining and there is the added potential for mold growth and toxin production.
In most cases, aerobic instability, and silage heating, is caused by yeast growth. Yeasts need oxygen to grow, so all the management tips outlined above — including using a proven inoculant to drive a fast, efficient fermentation — will help. However, yeast populations on crops at harvest can be very high, so residual numbers in the silage can be an issue.
At feed-out, when silage is again exposed to air, these spoilage yeasts “wake up” and can grow rapidly, causing heating, spoilage and feed losses. Good feed-out management will help. Keep the silage surface tight and clean; 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 prevent heating.
Producers can also use an inoculant that is research proven to prevent heating at feed-out. Silage inoculated with Lactobacillus buchneri NCIMB 40788 will be more resistant to heating and spoilage, as this organism dramatically reduces yeast levels. L. buchneri 40788 applied at a minimum of 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.
For additional silage tips, visit www.qualitysilage.com or Ask the Silage Dr. on Twitter or Facebook.