Silage additives and inoculants are typically incorporated into silage crops to help balance deficiencies in bacteria population and support an efficient fermentation process.
Silage additives can be used to remedy deficiencies such as lack of sufficient population of bacteria to support adequate fermentation and low levels of fermentable carbohydrates. Most of the silage additives are applied as forages and are chopped or added during the loading phase. Silage inoculants tend to be expensive, but safe and noncorrosive. The standard silage inoculant, lactic acid bacteria (LAB), usually reduces fermentation losses but often increases losses during feeding. In most cases, if spoiling during feeding becomes a problem in a specific farm, the use of LAB may increase overall shrink losses and would not be recommended. However, if spoilage has not been a problem, then the use of LAB should be considered because it reduces fermentation losses.
In most cases, bacterial inoculants reduce pH, shift fermentation toward lactic acid and reduce ammonia production.
The ideal silage inoculant should do the following:
- Grow vigorously and compete with other micro-organisms
- Tolerate pH down at least 4.0
- Ferment glucose, fructose, sucrose, fructans and pentose sugars
- Avoid utilizing organic acids in the silage
- Grow at temperatures up to 120°F
- Be able to grow in low-moisture environments
Shrink Loss Factors
It is important to remember all the factors that affect shrink losses when determining whether inoculants are needed. These factors are the following:
- Type of structure: Bunkers usually have greater shrink compared to other types of storage structures.
- Chop length: Finely chopped forages can be packed more effectively; however, chopping too finely can result in not enough effective fiber in the diet.
- Rate of filling: Slow filling will reduce the rate of fermentation so that pH stays higher for a longer time. One of the major problems with shrink losses is the air trapped inside the silage. This will promote yeasts and mold, causing serious problems to the final product.
- Packing capacity: Not having enough packing equipment at the pile to keep up with the capacity of today’s silage choppers can be a challenge. Adding a second tractor may be called for to make sure that the silage can be packed thoroughly.
- Covering the silage: Covering a bunker with plastic as soon as possible after filling is the best choice to reduce shrink and spoilage losses.
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