It is inevitable that some silage losses will occur. Yet, producers can change the magnitude of these potential losses since some are avoidable.
If shrink can be reduced by just 5%, there could be savings of $2,000 per 1,000 tons of silage, assuming the silage is valued at $40 per ton fresh matter (FM). Moreover, silage with high shrink or degree of deterioration not only has less overall tonnage to be fed, but the feed is also of lower nutritional quality.
There are two major opportunities to control losses: before ensiling and during feedout.
At Harvest Time
Harvesting at the right stage of maturity and dry matter content is key to minimizing losses. Chopping the forage at adequate particle size will be critical for a successful packing job.
Once the forage is delivered to the storage structure, oxygen must be excluded from the forage mass before the active fermentative phase takes place. Packing the forage tight is one of the most important (and most overlooked) factors when making good silage.
Relying solely on the natural population of microorganisms on the plants for the fermentation process is a dicey decision; at the very best, the result is normally an inefficient fermentation with a slow rate of pH drop. Therefore, adding an inoculant with an efficient strain of homolactic bacterium (or more than one) is vital to guarantee an effective fermentation and save the highest level of DM and nutrients.
It is also imperative to properly cover and seal as soon as possible. If not properly covered, storage losses can be extensive due to air exposure and the effects of the elements.
Losses at Feedout
The feedout removal rate of silage from the storage structure is comparable to a race against time, so air cannot penetrate as quickly into the silage mass. Fast removal rates lead to reduced aerobic spoilage and low losses. It is recommended to remove 4 to 6 inches per day of silage from the entire silo face; however, this rate could be lower for stable silages during the winter. Additionally, using a Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 based inoculant has been proved by the FDA to enhance the aerobic stability of a wide variety of silage crops.
Following the recommended management practices for all phases of ensiling – aerobic, fermentation, storage and feedout – are vital to retain most of the nutrients and DM, resulting in minimal shrink.
For additional silage tips, visit www.qualitysilage.com.