Alternative Silage

David Lewis

Extreme feed shortages over the past three years have driven Australian dairy and beef producers to experiment with a range of non-traditional sources for silage. As climate changes globally, we are likely to see more areas where feedstocks are in short supply and producers need to look at alternative sources to fill this gap.

Lallemand Technical Services Manager, David Lewis, says his company has helped livestock producers to successfully produce silage using sorghum stubble, corn stubble, sugar cane, canola, beans and even cotton! Ironically, difficult times often drive innovation and that’s certainly been the case in the Australian silage sector over the past few years.

“Livestock producers have been forced to use whatever fodder sources are available and we’ve seen several different crops successfully made into silage. Some of these crops have been difficult to compact and ferment or contaminated with high levels of undesirable bacteria, but we showed that it is possible to make silage from these alternative sources. Like all silage, it comes down to good planning and management and the use of the best technology available,” explains David.

Making quality silage is important to drive on farm productivity and there are some important practices and parameters required for success. As with any crop management at harvest, key factors to consider are:

  • Harvest timing and plant maturity influences quality and quantity
  • For best fermentation aim for 32-36% dry matter
  • Adjust chop lengths depending on crop moisture and to enable good compaction
  • Transport to storage areas as quickly as possible
  • Aim for clean, uncontaminated forage that is free from dirt, wire, wood, rocks and other foreign objects
  • Seal the silage pit quickly and effectively use high quality plastic, preferably oxygen barrier film (with  Oxygen Transfer Rate research data)

2018-19 Crops out of the ordinary

  • Canola
  • Sugar cane
  • Beans and pulses
  • Sunflowers
  • Corn stubble
  • Sorghum grain crop stubble
  • Cotton

Ensiling challenges

When dealing with alternate and failed crops not originally intended for forage it is important to consider extra ensiling challenges:

  • Increased risk of soil contamination
  • Increased epiphytic bacteria
  • Moisture
  • Sugars
  • Packing Density
  • Chemical Residue, Withholding periods?
  • Potential for excess Nitrates or other compounds
  • Machinery challenges
  • Long haulage distances
  • Feeding challenges
  • Impacts on animal health
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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