Silage additives can help with high dry matter feed crops


Using an additive when ensiling maize silage is widely believed to be unnecessary, but new research shows some financial benefits with high dry matter crops.

There is widespread debate as to whether using additives improves silage quality, says University of reading researcher Sarah Harrison. "Many producers also question the financial benefits of additives and which type is most effective, but there is a lack of independent data."

This prompted the maize Growers Association to fund a trail at CEDAR, University of Reading, to investigate four different additives. "It included biological inoculants, chemical-based treatment - such as potassium sorbate and sulphite salts - and productions containing both," says Dr Harrison.

Biological additives aim to improve normal bacterial fermentation by enhancing lactic acidproducing microbes. In contrast, chemical additives promote anaerobic conditions and acidify the clamp, she says.

The project revealed little difference in dry matter losses between the additivies and control - which received no additive. Losses averaged 4.1% for 35% dry matter silage and less than 0.5% for 35% dry matter maize."

However, Dr Harrison says crop dry matter were higher than planned because of difficult harvesting conditions. "So, silage was typical of a late harvested crop which can be difficult to ensile."

Lactic Acid content

Chemical composition of silage was also similar for all treatment with

35% dry matter silage, but using additivies lower the pH of 38% dry matter silage by an average 0.1. This reflects a higher lactic acid content. "Closer examination of spoilage when exposing maize silage to air for 144 hours at either 16C or 25C revealed that all silages were reasonably stable.

"Previous studies revealed that temperature exceed 45C when maize silage deterirates."

Surprisingly, application of sulphide salts had little benefit on aerobic spoilage, as shown in other trials, she adds. However, one bioloical and one combined product showed a combined product showed a consistent reduction in aerobic spoilage. This improvement consisted of a 0.5C reduction in maize silage temprature, a lower pH and a lower yeast population for the 38% dry matter crop.

"When taking changes in silage quality into account, using an additive increased the cost of silage to between £3.48 and £3.55/ GJ of metabolisable energy, compared with £3.45 for untreadted silage,"says Dr Harrision.

"However, this doesn't include the cost of lost milk production and increase silage waste. Silage often undergoes a period of 48 hours of aerobic exposure at the clamp face prior to feeding."

Dr Harrison calculates that the average daily cost for untreated silage is 46.5p/cow. Only the combined potassium sorbate and homofermentative lactic acid-producing bacterial product proved lower than the control at 26.7p/cow.

But she cautions that the lack of information on the decrease in silage intake with increase spoilage means these results must be interpreted with caution.

By Richard Allison     





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