Plan to Reduce Feed Costs With Silage

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The best way to put a dent in feed costs is to retain more forage from the field to feedbunk and improve the quality of the silage itself. Fortunately, focusing on basic silage management practices can help address both goals.

Now is the time to plan to create plentiful, high-quality silage that will fuel livestock — and profits — in the coming year.

Increase silage quantity and quality

Reducing dry matter (DM) losses is the same as increasing silage quantity. When DM losses occur, the quantity available shrinks. Plus, the remaining feed is of a lower quality because the first components to be lost are the most digestible nutrients.

There is no single solution to reducing silage shrink. It requires attention to detail and best management practices. Silage crops need to be: harvested at the right moisture and stage of maturity; chopped to get the optimum length of cut; processed if necessary; brought in quickly; packed well to drive out oxygen; and sealed immediately after filling.

Ensuring a rapid and efficient fermentation also helps reduce shrink. A research-proven inoculant proven can help provide a quick pH drop. For example, the lactic acid bacteria (LAB) Pediococcus pentosaceus 12455 has been proven to provide an efficient, fast fermentation. In one study, the LAB strain provided 18 percent higher DM recovery compared to controls.[1]

Reduce spoilage losses

In most cases, aerobic instability (silage heating) is caused by spoilage yeast growth. Yeasts need oxygen to grow, so all the management tips outlined above — including using a proven inoculant to drive a fast, efficient fermentation — will help.

However, yeast populations on crops at harvest can be very high, and so residual numbers in the silage can be an issue. At feedout, when silage is again exposed to air, these spoilage yeasts “wake-up” and can grow rapidly, causing heating, spoilage and feed losses.

Good feedout management will help. Keep the silage surface tight and clean; avoid removing silage too far ahead of feeding; do not leave silage sitting in loose piles; and feed out at a rate fast enough to prevent heating.

The right inoculant choice can help prevent heating at feedout. Silage inoculated with Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 will be more resistant to heating and spoilage as this organism dramatically reduces yeast levels. L. buchneri 40788 applied at 400,000 CFU per gram of silage or 600,000 CFU per gram of high-moisture corn (HMC), has been uniquely reviewed by the FDA for improved aerobic stability.

A combination inoculant can help address both goals — increasing silage quantity and reducing spoilage losses. Along with implementing good management practices, producers can plan to reduce feed costs and feed high-quality silage.                                                                                                                                      

For additional tips on producing stable, high-quality silage, visit or Ask the Silage Dr. on Twitter or Facebook.

[1]Data on file. Lallemand Animal Nutrition Kansas State University silage study.


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