When silage shrinks, producers end up with less available feed and, often, a lower quality feed. The initial dry matter (DM) losses are often of more valuable nutrients such as sugars, starches and soluble proteins. This, in turn, leads to a higher concentration of lower-value nutrients, like fiber.
“Ensuring higher silage quality and conserving more of the nutrients and silage mass can save producers a significant amount of money by reducing the spend on purchased feeds,” says Renato Schmidt, Technical Services – Forage, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “Dry matter loss isn’t always visible. Around 15% loss is to be expected, with 10% or more in additional losses that can be prevented through good management practices, including using proven inoculants. Preventing 10% additional losses can save producers approximately $44,000 a year1.
To reduce losses, it’s helpful to understand common pitfalls. These can be:
- aerobic spoilage
- aerobic respiration and fermentation
- silage runoff
- secondary fermentation
DM losses occur by two primary means: losses during the initial ensiling fermentation and aerobic spoilage losses. To reduce initial fermentation losses, the key is to use an inoculant proven to dominate the fermentation and produce a rapid, efficient pH drop. Promoting a fast pH drop can also help stabilize forage and reduce yeast growth, which is a major cause of silage heating. The lactic acid bacteria Pediococcus pentosaceus 12455, provides an efficient, fast fermentation fueled by sugars generated by high activity enzymes, as found in Biotal® Plus II.
With spoilage losses, the key is preventing spoilage that occurs when oxygen allows bacteria, yeasts and molds to grow in the silage. Uniquely, the data validating the efficacy of L. buchneri 40788, as found in Biotal Buchneri 40788, to actively prevent yeast growth and heating, and subsequent losses in quantity and quality of the silage, has been reviewed by the FDA..
Forages that are prone to spoilage include drier haylage, corn and cereal silage, high-moisture corn and cereal grains, baleage and baled hay. Combining P. pentosaceus 12455, enzymes and L. buchneri 40788, as in Biotal Buchneri 500, offers the benefits of both a fast, efficient fermentation and reducing heating and spoilage at feedout. A study by the University of Florida — Gainesville showed that using Biotal® Buchneri 500 reduced spoilage losses by 4.4 points2. The value of replacement feeds for lost silage per 1,000 tons of dry matter is more than $12,000.
“Using a silage inoculant that has been shown to reduce spoilage pays dividends,” Schmidt says. “When producers reduce spoilage, they have more total tons of feed with well-preserved nutrients. It certainly pays to reduce dry matter losses.”