Identify and Overcome the Top 5 Silage Challenges

As producers are making their New Year’s resolutions, it’s a good time to think about farm production goals as well. Identifying silage challenges — and making plans to overcome them — can set the stage for improved profitability and productivity.

Despite the best intentions, every producer is likely to experience some silage quality issues. Common areas of concern include:

1.       Poor fermentation, which can result in in degradation of nutrients, excessive heat and even the production of toxins.

2.      Aerobic spoilage caused by yeasts and molds, often result in heating and nutrient and dry matter (DM) losses.

3.      Incorrect moisture levels, either too wet or too dry. Lower DM forages tend to have extensive fermentation and lower pH. On the other hand, higher DM silages are usually more mature, and so less digestible, are more difficult to pack, and more prone to aerobic stability problems.

4.      Mycotoxins are toxic secondary metabolites produced by fungi (molds) that have been shown to cause a wide range of undesirable effects when animals are exposed to feed containing mycotoxins.

5.      Quality concerns, such as fiber and protein levels, digestibility, etc.

To help overcome these challenges, it takes both good forage and good silage management. Only then can producers realize the maximum gains from high quality silage. Review the various crops you harvested for ensiling last season to make sure your harvest procedures match your overall goals. Was the crop harvested at the right stage of maturity and moisture level? Was the chop length correct? Was the silo or bunker filled quickly, packed properly and sealed quickly and effectively?

Next, ask yourself if the initial fermentation was rapid and efficient. To reduce initial fermentation losses, the key is to use an inoculant proven to dominate the fermentation and produce a quick 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.

To minimize spoilage losses, it’s important to prevent spoilage that occurs when oxygen allows bacteria, yeasts and molds to grow in the silage. The high dose rate L. buchneri 40788 is reviewed by the FDA and allowed to claim efficacy in preventing the growth of yeasts and molds in silages and HMC.

After producers have reviewed their harvesting and filling procedures, be sure to examine feedout protocols. Silage is again exposed to oxygen during this time, which can make it vulnerable to aerobic instability again. Be sure to use good face management and feedout at the right rate.  Also, it is important that the ration is balanced properly around the silage, so that you get the maximum production possible and avoid issues due to poor silage, such as ration interactions or Sub Acute Ruminal Acidosis (SARA).

To help overcome these concerns, be sure to get all the silage team together to review and improve the on-farm processes and practices. The entire team, from silage production through to feeding, needs to be involved to make real and lasting changes. In addition, this is a good time to review silage safety protocols.

For additional tips on producing high-quality silage safely, visit or Ask the Silage Dr. on Twitter or Facebook.