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Silage making information and advice

Silage Making

2014 was a year with good conditions for making quality grass silage with enough sun to achieve good grass growth and quick wilting. Even so, there is a lot of silage this year that has had a slightly lower ME than expected and even a slight reduction in ME can have a big impact.

Good quality grass is a very good starting point, however this doesn’t necessarily always mean that the crop will ferment well to give a well preserved, stable silage.

Fermentation quality can vastly affect the stability, retained energy and true protein of the finished silage. Also the palatability is vastly influenced by the bacteria present in the clamp which control the fermentation process.

During ensiling, energy is lost as it is used in the fermentation process and true protein is broken down. The longer that the ensiling process takes, the more energy will be lost and the more true protein broken down.

Here’s a practical example of how this can impact on profitability

Take two silages, one average and one good, with ME values of 10.6 and 11.6 MJ/kg

This is a difference of 1 MJ/kg which although doesn’t seem a lot, the following shows how costly it actually is.

On average, a cow in milk would be eating somewhere around 10-12kg dry matter of silage per day in the diet (around 40-48kg fresh weight @ 25% DM) and getting the rest of its energy from other feed sources.

With a difference of 1MJ/kg in the silage, that’s a difference of 10-12 MJ of ME per cow per day.

Milk production uses approximately 5.3MJ of ME per Litre of milk so this difference of just 1MJ in the silage is costing around 2 Litres of milk per cow per day.

How can I improve the quality of silage?

A silage inoculant is one of the most effective ways to do this. Inefficient and slow fermentation can result in more energy being lost than is necessary during the process.

●Improves efficiency

●Improves speed of fermentation

●Less wasted energy and money

Although a difference of 1MJ/kg is unlikely, it doesn’t take much of a difference before the cost of the inoculant is more than paid for. In trials our inoculant has shown an increase of around 1L of milk in cows fed treated versus untreated silage.

Good weather is key

One school of thought is that silage inoculants don’t need to be used if the weather is good and the clamp is well packed and well sealed. Although good weather and good compaction in the clamp do help massively to make good quality silage, the quality can be improved further by adding an inoculant as good weather and compaction don’t influence the types of bacteria in the clamp which control the fermentation process.

In a clamp with no inoculant, the bacteria on the grass can vary leading to variation in fermentation quality and efficiency. When an inoculant is applied, a large number of bacteria are added which vastly outnumber the bacteria naturally found on the grass and therefore take control of the fermentation process. The bacteria added in the inoculant are specially selected to be extremely efficient and do the best job possible.

Improvements in energy retention alone are enough to make inoculant application worthwhile however there are also the added benefits of improved true protein retention and greater stability and less waste (all resulting in less bought in feed).

What are the benefits of top quality silage?

At a time when margins are even tighter than they already have been, making top quality silage is one way of reducing production costs. Gaining more litres from home grown forage means that less litres need making up from bought in feeds and rumen health will be better as less concentrates are fed.

The best way to evaluate silage quality is through analysis. G Shepherd Animal Health offer a free silage analysis with a report fully explaining the results to help you understand how well fermented the silage is, as well as how well it will feed and if there are any ways to improve silage making for this coming year.

For different crops and situations, different silage inoculant products are recommended.

Give us a call on 01772 690131 for more information on the best inoculants to choose and to arrange an analysis for ways on improving your silage quality.

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