Two other factors to consider regarding the benefits of proper sealing are the negative effects of feeding surface spoiled silage and the dangers associated with removing spoilage from the top of most bunkers and piles today. Bolsen says producers who feed surface spoilage lose production efficiency in their cattle. In a Kansas State University study, fistulated steers were fed 0 to 16 percent surface-spoiled corn silage in rations that were 87.5 percent silage and 12.5 percent supplement. The addition of surface spoilage had large negative associative effects on DM intake and organic matter digestibility, as well as neutral and acid detergent fiber digestibilities. The first increment of spoilage had the greatest negative impact, and the results clearly showed that surface spoilage reduced the nutritive value of corn silage-based rations more than was expected. When used properly, oxygen barrier film can eliminate the need to remove surface-spoiled silage.
Using an inoculant
Bolsen says another important silage management decision is the use of a lactic acid bacterial inoculant. He says research backs this practice. Bolsen added that applying an inoculant at the forage harvester should be a “no brainer” because it reduces DM loss in corn silage by 1.5 to 2 percentage points. To calculate the value of using an inoculant, Bolsen referenced a dairy herd with an average production of 80 pounds of milk per cow per day, a ration DM intake of 53 pounds per cow per day (16 pounds of corn silage DM per cow per day), $22-per-hundredweight milk price and $65 per ton of silage. Reducing shrink loss with an inoculant, which he estimates costs approximately 2 to 3.5 cents per cow per day, increases net income by $60 to $75 per cow per year.
Regardless of the size of operation, Bolsen says this is “not a perfect world” and that mistakes leading to higher than optimum shrink losses can occur in every silage program. However, he says, working within “the silage triangle,” which includes the beef or dairy producer, the forage grower and the silage contractor, producers can fine-tune silage management practices, reduce silage DM lossesand reduce the cost of feeding a ton of silage.