Ask the Silage Dr: Cold Weather and Heating Silage

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Q: "It has been an awfully cold winter. Do I still have to be concerned with heating later this year or did the extreme cold eliminate this issue?"

A. Though it has certainly been unusually cold this year, that doesn’t mean that the spoilage microbes that cause heating are gone or dead. Yeasts and other spoilage microbes can lie dormant even in very cold weather; so there is still the potential for them to “come alive” as ambient temperatures start to rise.

Heating and spoilage due to the growth of spoilage microbes when the silage is exposed to air can occur any time, but is especially an issue in warmer weather as the rising temperatures drive more rapid microbial growth.

To prevent this, there are two important factors to consider:

  • Using an inoculant proven to inhibit spoilage at harvest
  • Proper management both at harvest and year-round

Some inoculants contain specifically selected bacteria proven to combat the spoilage and heating that can occur after opening up the fermented silage, particularly during feed-out.   High dose rate Lactobacillus  buchneri 40788 is the only active inoculant ingredient reviewed by FDA and allowed to claim “improved aerobic stability in silages and high moisture corn”.

Proper management is important to avoid aerobic spoilage. Some best management practices to consider include:

  • Harvest at optimum maturity to minimize spoilage yeast levels
  • Ensure the silage is well packed
  • Cover and seal the harvested forage quickly and ensure proper coverage
  • Only uncover as much silage as is going to be fed daily
  • Remove at least 6” of silage, or more in warmer weather, from the face daily
  • Do not let silage sit around in loose piles


The Silage Dr.

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mounir khamis    
Lebanon/ Zahleh  |  March, 23, 2014 at 12:42 PM

dear doctor, i have a corn silage at 50 % dry matter , how can i ferment this type of silage ? by adding inoculant with molasses it will work ? thank you in advance regards Mounir Khamis

The Silage Dr.    
Milwaukee, WI  |  March, 28, 2014 at 05:14 PM

Dear Mounir, As you are most likely aware, 50% dry matter is on the high side for corn silage, which could lead to issues with proper packing, and in turn lead to aerobic stability problems. The high dry matter will mean that there will be a restricted fermentation in any event, so I do not think that adding molasses will be a great help, in fact it even could make matters worse. You do need something to help you prevent aerobic spoilage & heating, however. For this I would prescribe the high dose rate Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 which has been validated by the FDA for improving aerobic stability, and is used widely with great success throughout North America on snaplage (often the top 1/3 or so of the corn plant) at around 60% DM. Biotal Buchneri 500 from Lallemand combines the proven high dose rate L. buchneri 40788 with technology for a fast, efficient fermentation, to increase both nutrient recovery during fermentation and stability at feedout to maximize high quality preserved feed right through to feeding. Thanks for the question and I hope this information helps!

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