Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition

3 Tips for Silage Inoculant Success

It’s never too early to plan for a successful forage season—particularly the outcome for the upcoming growing year, even though it hasn’t yet begun in many areas.

Of course, variety selection, crop fertility, weed management and other agronomic factors are extremely important elements that deserve time and attention in the coming months.

But all your effort and expense can be for naught if your harvest and crop preservation practices fall short. You can lose as much as 60 percent of forage dry matter between the field and feedout if you fail to follow proper procedures and implement effective technologies. No dairy can afford that kind of hit.

That’s why it’s a good idea to begin with the end in mind. And take a good look at your options to improve silage fermentation and the nutrient quality of your forages before you get caught up in the business and stresses of the growing season. Forage harvest will be here before you know it, so be prepared—whether you work with a custom harvester or put up your own forages.

Following are three tips to help you get the most from your silage management efforts this season.

  1. Invest in a quality inoculant. Forage inoculants are one of the tools used to improve silage fermentation, reduce silage heating and shrink, prolong bunk-life and enhance animal performance. The Lactobacillus, Pediococcus and Bacillus strains in CERTILLUS™ for forage, for example, quickly convert carbohydrates to lactic acid, lowering silage pH to maximize fermentation and reduce clostridia counts to lock in nutrients.

    According to researchers at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin, silage inoculants work by shifting silage fermentation in a direction that better preserves the crop. That happens when the lactic acid bacteria in the inoculant overwhelm the natural lactic acid bacteria on the crop.1 To gain the most benefit from inoculants, apply only as directed.

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  3. Practice proper harvest and bunker management methods. Proper chop size, rapid silo filling, adequate packing and proper covering are still important to assure an oxygen-free environment. As you know, oxygen is the enemy of proper silage fermentation. Wilting the forage before storage also is extremely important to not only reduce seepage, but increase forage sugar content (an important food source for the bacterial inoculant).2 In addition to, and in combination with these factors, proper feed-out rates ensures the most nutrients will be available for animals. 

     

  4. Protect dry matter. Some dry matter losses are inevitable. Good forage management techniques can help you reduce dry matter losses to as little as 10 – 15 percent, according to data1 from the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center. Understand that the loss in dry matter does not occur equally across the board; the easily available carbohydrates, such as energy-rich sugars, disappear in greater proportion than the fiber or protein.

Therefore, when dry matter losses are great, you not only have less forage to feed, but the silage that remains is of poorer quality. Inoculants are a tool to reduce dry matter losses, typically by    2 – 3 percentage units, meaning they have a role in reducing losses. The biggest effect on losses occurs when inoculants are used together with good silage management practices.1

Lastly, keep in mind that the process of fermentation only slows clostridia growth, it does not kill the bacteria. Given that clostridia are highly prevalent on dairy farms across the country, consider the ability of CERTILLUS to help alter clostridia populations within your farm’s Microbial Terroir™—which includes the environment, soil and animals for your specific farm location.

Instead of allowing clostridia to flourish, your objective should be to limit your farm’s clostridial load and change the pathogen profile to prevent herd health and performance issues.

 

1 U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center. Silage inoculants: What the research tells us about when and how to use them. Available at: https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/50901500/EducationalMaterialsMarch2012/ForageResearch/16%20silage%20inoculents_forPDF.pdf. Accessed February 8, 2018.

2 Schroeder JW. North Dakota State University. Dairy Focus: Using Inoculants Effectively. Available at: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/columns/dairy-focus/dairy-focus-using-inoculants-effectively. Accessed February 8, 2018.

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