Producing quality silage doesn’t just require good bunker management before the ensiling process, it also involves managing the silage once the bunker is opened. As silage is opened and fed, it is once again exposed to air. Oxygen allows aerobic organisms that survived the ensiling process — such as bacilli, molds and especially yeasts — to grow.
These microbes use sugars, lactic acid and other nutrients for growth and produce water, carbon dioxide and heat as end-products. Excessive heat accumulation in the bunker can denature proteins and other nutrients in the silage. Molds growing on the silage may also produce mycotoxins that can reduce animal performance and cause herd health and fertility issues.
Heating and spoilage during feedout is one of the greatest contributors to dry matter (DM) and nutrient losses in silage production. To minimize these losses, be sure to use good face management by maintaining a straight feedout face, were possible use specialized defacers, avoid removing silage too far ahead of feeding, do not leave silage sitting around in loose piles and feed out at a rate fast enough to avoid heating. Where it’s not possible to utilize specialized machinery such as defacers, consider taking smaller blocks from the face so that the whole face is crossed more quickly. This will also help to maintain the aerobic stability.
Research-proven inoculants can also help reduce the growth of spoilage yeasts and molds. Inoculants containing Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 will inhibit spoilage organisms through the ensiling period and significantly improve aerobic stability on opening.
When changing over to feeding the new season silage, remember it is different feed compared to what the cows have currently been getting. Make the changeover gradually. Substituting 25 percent of the “old” silage with new each week. For example:
- Week 1: 1 to 25 percent
- Week 2: 50 percent
- Week 3: 75 percent
- Week 4: 100 percent
A schedule such as this should minimize the chance of digestive upsets which will decrease intakes and production. Also keep in mind the digestibility of the silages starch in corn silage can increase greatly over eight to 10 months of storage. This should be checked on a monthly basis so that rations can be adjusted if necessary.
Combining good feedout management with a research-proven inoculant will help provide new forages that are aerobically stable from start to finish and help keep production levels stable.
A version of this article was published in “Farm Journal Quality Silage: Communicating with custom harvesters” in October 2018.