Ensuring Excellent Silage Quality

Ensuring Excellent Silage Quality

Ensiling is a key process used to preserve forage and crops for cost-effective animal feed. Getting the ensiling process right is critical to maximize feed value, and to ensure good animal productivity and health throughout the year.

Preservation

Preservation is the key word here. All too often, a suboptimal ensiling process compromises the feed value of the silage, with the loss of valuable energy and protein. The expert BIOMIN team can guide you in your silage-making decisions and help you to achieve top-quality silage. 
Part of the ensiling process is to ensure that the right bacteria are driving the fermentation process. A quality silage inoculant with the right blend of homofermentative and heterofermentative bacteria helps ensure a good silage quality is not left to chance.

Use the right bacteria

The homofermentative (lactic acid-producing) bacteria should be selected to ensure the silage pH drops as fast as possible, to prevent undesirable bacteria from becoming established. The heterofermentative bacteria should produce a balance of lactic acid and acetic acid to help maintain that low pH and prevent the growth of undesirable yeasts and molds. They should also ensure good aerobic stability so that the silage can maintain its quality in the feed-out stage. The right bacteria help to drive fermentation in the right direction, preventing undesirable microbes from removing valuable protein and energy resources from the ensiled forage. However, even the best bacteria cannot replace getting the fundamentals of silage making right. The BIOMIN staff have the knowledge and tools to help guide you in assessing and ensuring silage quality.

How smelly is your silage?

The most desirable fermentation product is lactic acid, which hardly smells at all. Other silage smells can be indicators of problems in the fermentation process. The BIOMIN technical team have samples of the natural chemicals to help identify the dominant smells in your silage. Butyric acid causes a pungent smell that can reduce palatability and is an indicator of clostridial fermentation. Clostridia metabolize sugar, protein, amino acids and lactic acid, significantly reducing silage quality. The proliferation of Clostridia can also have a detrimental effect on animal health and productivity. A vinegar smell (from over-production of acetic acid) or alcohol smell (from yeast growth) on the other hand, could indicate energy and dry matter wastage in the silage. A strong smell of ammonia indicates protein breakdown, again compromising silage quality

Figure 1: Thermal image of silage with temperature profile
Figure 1: Thermal image of silage with temperature profile
Figure 2. Silage corer
Figure 2. Silage corer

Total silage management

BIOMIN can help with all aspects of silage production and management. To help diagnose problems with aerobic stability, BIOMIN uses infrared thermal cameras to visually check the whole surface of the bunker (Figure 1), as well as thermometer rods to probe under the surface, as it is important to investigate at least 20 cm deep into the silage face (Borreanni, 2010). Professional silage corers (Figure 2) enable good, representative sampling for analysis, and the laboratory results can be interpreted with BIOMIN technical support. Silage pH can be tested on the spot. It is vital to remember that silage is an important part of the TMR and its quality will affect cow digestion and productivity. BIOMIN technical staff can assess TMR particle size using the Penn State Separator method, and check manure quality and digestion with a 'digestion analyzer' sieve kit.

Contact BIOMIN to find out more about the Biomin® BioStabil silage inoculant product line and access the full range of educational tools and technical support provided by the BIOMIN team.

Reference

Borreani, G., and Tabacco, E. (2010). The relationship of silage temperature with the microbiological status of the face of corn silage bunkers. Journal of Dairy Science. 93(6), 2620–2629.