Efficient Use of Forage

Roy Eastlake

The UK Lallemand Animal Nutrition Technical team has focused on driving more efficient use of forage which will help to reduce production costs and need not involve major changes.

Tackling waste

No-one sets out to make bad silage. No-one sets out to waste silage. But every year a significant amount of silage dry matter is wasted, reducing potential milk from forage, increasing feed  costs and increasing the risk of a forage shortfall.

Waste isn’t just the visibly soiled material we are all familiar with. It is also the lost energy  and dry matter that occur at all stages of the production and feeding cycle… but the good  news is that most levels of waste are avoidable and can be reduced by good management.  Reduce waste and you will have more to feed, letting you take control with forage.

Typical dry matter losses

A whole range of factors contribute to losses and they soon mount up.

Loss type
CauseTypical loss (%)
Physical loss for a 1000t clamp at 30%DM
Field lossesLeaf shatter Crop left in field
Microbial breakdown
3%9 tonnes DM lost
Respiration lossesOver wilting Delayed pick up
Not sheeting clamp each night
4%12 tonnes DM lost
Fermentation lossesSlow, incomplete fermentation
Incomplete sealing of clamp
5%15 tonnes DM lost
Aerobic spoilage and feeding losses
Poor clamp filling Poor sealing
Dirty clamp at filling Poor face management
Poor feedout management
10%30 tonnes DM lost
Total losses22%66 tonnes DM lost

The value of this lost dry matter at £100/t is £6600.

In practice for a 200 cow herd for a 200 day winter, the losses above mean: £14,000 extra concentrates to replace the lost energy  1.6kg less DM/cow/day available to feed. At 12kgDM/cow/day intakes you will run out of silage 27 days earlier.  Research by the global expert on silage making, Professor Limin Kung proves that waste rates can never be eliminated, but they can be reduced by good management.

 GOOD management ✔
POOR management ✘
Field losses3%5%2%
Respiration losses1%6%5%
Fermentation losses5%11%6%
Aerobic spoilage and feedout losses6%12%6%

Reducing losses does not require major changes, its more a case of planning and implementing good management processes. These will have a large beneficial impact on silage quality with minimum costs.

Respiration and fermentation losses

  • Pre-cut test grass. To ensure sugar and free nitrogen levels are at optimum levels. Sugars above 10% in DM. Free nitrogen below 1000mg/kg
  • Don’t scalp fields. Leave a 6-7cm stubble to minimise contamination with soil and slurry, both of which are enemies of efficient fermentation
  • Silage in a day. Wilt to 32-35% dry matter in a day. Never have harvested material down in the field more than 24 hours.
  • Use a challenge specific inoculant. Different crops and dry matters require specific bacteria to ensure an effective fermentation. Choose the right inoculant from our range of products.

Storage losses

  • Clean clamps. Make sure all walls and floors have been thoroughly cleaned prior to harvest and clamping. Keep all areas where trailers are emptied clean too.
  • Thin layers. Fill the clamp in thin layers and roll well. Lack of compaction is a major cause of DM losses. Fill the clamp quickly and sheet at night.
  • Seal well. Air is the ultimate enemy of an effective fermentation and quality silage. Seal clamps with a proven oxygen barrier.
  • Cover and weight down. Ensure all sheets overlap and that there are no holes in the sheet. Apply weight across the clamp paying close attention to the shoulders. Use nets to prevent bird damage to sheets.

Aerobic spoilage and feedout

  • Challenge specific inoculant. Use an inoculant which is proven to improve the aerobic stability of a silage at opening
  • Don’t open too much. Keep the top sheet close to the edge of the clamp and weighted down to prevent rain and air entering the top of the clamp
  • Clean face. Work across the face quickly and evenly to avoid being exposed to the elements too long. Target to get across the whole face in seven days. Remove any spoiled material and throw it away to prevent further contamination
  • Correct kit. Use a shear grab, block cutter or face rake to remove silage. Minimise disturbance of the face. Keep equipment well maintained with sharp knives.






Lallemand Animal Nutrition does not purport, in this guide or in any other publication, to specify minimum safety or legal standards or to address all of the compliance requirements, risks, or safety problems associated with working on or around farms. This guide is intended to serve only as a beginning point for information and should not be construed as containing all the necessary compliance, safety, or warning information, nor should it be construed as representing the policy of Lallemand Animal Nutrition. No warranty, guarantee, or representation is made by Lallemand Animal Nutrition as to the accuracy or sufficiency of the information and guidelines contained herein, and Lallemand Animal Nutrition assumes no liability or responsibility in connection therewith. It is the responsibility of the users of this guide to consult and comply with pertinent local, state, and federal laws, regulations, and safety standards.

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