Waiting to open up ensiled forages can reward patient producers with significant increases in productivity and reduced feed costs.
Ensiling for eight or nine months or more can increase the starch digestibility in whole-plant corn silage, earlage, snaplage and high-moisture corn. Forages with more available starch can lead to greater energy available to the animal and, therefore, increased production and reduced feed costs.1
Nutritional components of whole-plant corn silage undergo changes during the course of ensiling. These ongoing changes may help explain why it"s relatively common for dairy herds to have lower butterfat content in April or May.2 High availability of starch in feeds after a prolonged storage period could be influencing these components.
Of course, not all producers will have the space and inventory available to store forages for the ideal period of time. However, the costs involved in providing extra storage capacity can be readily offset with greater returns in income. Working with blends or strict inventory management can help operations push towards a carry-over stock of at least four months and then push to achieve a 12 month buffer.
With longer ensiling times, good silage management practices are even more critical to keeping quality high and dry matter (DM) losses low. Producers should guard against air exposure and manage feed-out properly. Including a specific type of inoculant during ensiling can help promote feed-out stability. The research-proven strain Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 at an effective dose can address stability challenges, save DM and maintain profitability.
1 Ferraretto L. Shaver R. and Lauer J. Influence of ensiling on the digestability of whole-palant corn silage. Focus on Forage. Wisconsin Team Forage. Volume 16. Issue 3.
2 Kung L. Prolonged storage affects some chemical and nutritive aspects of HMC and corn silages. University of Delaware.