Monday, December 10, 2018

Four factors to ensure high quality silage

July 31, 2018 by  
Filed under Livestock

Many factors influence whether silage is good or merely average. Some of these – such as the weather – are outside our control. But good management can help ensure the healthiest silage possible, says Grace Thomas.

1. Fresh grass

Silage quality is determined mainly by the quality of the crop being ensiled. Leafy, young, immature crops tend to be lower in fibre and high in protein and sugars. Protein degrades and fibre levels increase as grass matures.

Older crops produce silage with more bulk but are generally poorer in quality and have lower feed value compared to young crop silage. Harvesting should thus take place, when possible, at peak crop quality rather than by the calendar date.

2. Pitting and baling

Once the crop is mowed every effort should be made to ensure that the grass is pitted correctly to allow for optimum fermentation. The pit should be filled rapidly and evenly. It needs to be packed tightly to create as dense a silage as possible.

Pits with lower densities tend to contain more oxygen which can lead to higher heat damage and poor fermentation. Pits with lower bunker densities have been proven to have greater dry matter losses compared to higher density pits.

3. Fermentation

The goal for optimum fermentation is to remove oxygen from the silage as soon as possible. Oxygen in the pit allows fermentation to occur but oxygen trapped in the silage delays lactic acid production causing heating, dry matter loss and the production of less desirable acetic acid.

Respiration in the grass continues after chopping, this can help towards the removal of oxygen in the pit. This converts the available oxygen to carbon dioxide, water and heat whilst utilising the sugar in the silage.

4. Feeding

Fermentation is complete when the low pH in the pit stops the bacterial action. Once the pit is stable it is safe to feed. When the pit is open, maintaining good pit face management is vital.

Some losses are inevitable. But the aim is to lower losses and produce the best silage possible. A good forage treatment product can help the rumen unlock more of the nutrients from forage and to improve profitability.

Grace Thomas is a nutritionist for animal nutrition company Agriking. For details, visit www.agriking.com.

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