If forages are ensiled when they are too wet, Clostridia bacteria convert the lactic acid needed to preserve the forage into butyric acid. This results in a "rotten-egg" smell, and can make cows go off feed. Clostridia bacteria also break down proteins in the silage.
Producers can wilt forages to an ideal moisture concentration (65–55%) before ensiling, but factors like high humidity, rainfall, thick plant cell walls, and high plant moisture concentrations often delay the drying rate of forages.
These challenges led researchers at the University of Florida to do a study that tested if herbicide application could be used to increase the drying rate of ryegrass and sorghum without reducing the nutritional value of the forages. The research was funded by the Southeast Milk Inc. Dairy Check-off.
In the Spring 2013 issue of Dairy Update from the University of Florida Dairy Extension, the researchers report their findings. They say that increasing the rate of herbicide application increased the drydown rate of ryegrass but did not reduce the nutritive value.
"These results need to be confirmed in a second year and we need to confirm that herbicide treatment leaves no harmful residues in the forage and does not reduce the performance of cows," they caution.
For more study details, read Using Herbicides to Accelerate the Drying Rate of Forages on page 4 in the Spring 2013 issue of Dairy Update.
Source: University of Florida Dairy Extension