Unfortunately, there is no single product or solution to create high-quality silage. The forages being harvested right now will soon be feedstuffs. The goal of silage is to preserve the quality and nutrients present in those crops at the time of harvest.
When producers start with good forage and use tried-and-true techniques, there’s no need for a silver bullet solution. The tools for creating high-quality silage are already on your farm today.
There are six areas producers should manage during harvest and ensiling to get the best quality silage possible:
- Prepare equipment. Equipment should be serviced and calibrated prior to harvest to help avoid delays and bottlenecks.
- Harvest at the right maturity and moisture level. Harvesting at the best stage of maturity and achieving the proper dry matter (DM) content for the specific forage or storage structure help maximize nutrients/DM preservation and feed intake by the animal.
- Check chop length. Chop length affects ensiling characteristics and feed quality. A short chop facilitates packing, minimizing air infiltration. A longer chop length increases effective fiber in the diet. Finding a ‘happy medium’ is important.
- Use research-proven forage inoculants. Inoculants will help drive an efficient fermentation and also prevent aerobic spoilage.
- Pack well. Achieving target packing densities is vital and requires adequate packing weight, time and technique.
- Seal fast and tight. Fully covered and sealed will help ensure a good fermentation, minimize nutrient and DM losses, maximize feed quality and increase production from the forage base.
Many of these techniques are designed to reduce exposure to oxygen, which is the main enemy to high-quality silage. Oxygen can slow down the ensiling fermentation and allow spoilage organisms to grow. This can result in lost DM and nutrients, or worse, affect herd health and fertility.
Inoculants can help minimize spoilage in the silage. Using an inoculant containing an efficient, proven homolactic lactic acid bacterium (LAB) — coupled with enzymes to drive the fermentation — can ensure a fast, efficient initial ensiling fermentation with a rapid pH drop, preventing the growth of spoilage organisms that cause high DM losses.
A research-proven inoculant can contribute to high-quality silage, but there’s no substitute for good management practices from harvest all the way to feedout. The result of getting each step right is cost-effective feedstuffs that support animal performance.