Inoculants are effective silage management tools, but for producers reeling under a pile of product information from numerous companies, it can often be challenging to select the right product. The right inoculant as part of an overall good silage management program will help producers have high quality silages. Choosing the correct inoculant is important, as the wrong choice can feel like a wasted investment at best.
"I always recommend producers ensure there is independent, scientific research for the specific inoculant in the target crop," says Bob Charley, Ph.D., Forage Products Manager, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. "The trials should validate the efficiency of the product at the application rate on the label and, ideally, be published in a reputable journal or presented at a scientific conference."
Next, Dr. Charley advises producers to read the product label to look for key items, such as:
- An application rate of 100,000 colony forming units (CFU) or greater for front-end fermentation inoculants. This is the minimum level, as recognized by university researchers.
- If the product contains enzymes, which will aid the bacteria in driving a rapid, efficient fermentation.
- The recommended shelf life and storage conditions.
In addition to these criteria, Dr. Charley says producers should evaluate the manufacturing and packaging for clues to the product"s future efficacy.
"Using an inoculant from a primary manufacturer can help guarantee the manufacturing quality of the product," he notes. "The packaging format and conditions in which the product is packaged are critical to inoculants as they are live, viable organisms that can be killed if exposed to heat, moisture or air."
Industry-standard packaging that helps prevent degradation includes: high-barrier outer packaging (e.g. laminate packets with a foil layer); using nitrogen flushing during packaging to minimize oxygen; and preservation agents like moisture scavengers in the formulation. For instance, Lallemand Animal Nutrition is the primary manufacturer of Biotal® and Sil-All® forage inoculants, which allows the company to control the full manufacturing process, to help ensure product integrity, viability, shelf life and stability.
"Even if you rarely encounter spoilage in your forage, proven inoculants are recommended for all situations," Dr. Charley says. "There are always dry matter savings to be realized, and producers need a product that is independently proven to provide a return on your inoculant investment."