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Maintain High-Quality Silage In Storage

09 December 2009

US - Harvesting high-quality silage is a challenge for all producers, the benefits of feeding high-quality corn silage and/or haylage include keeping feed costs in line and ensuring excellent animal performance, health, and milk production, says Neil Broadwater, University of Minnesota Extension.

However, the next challenge is to maintain the silage in top condition through the months ahead. The consequences of not doing so are reduced forage quality, and thus greater protein and energy supplement expenses. Also, deteriorated silage fed to the dairy herd can lead to health and production problems.

Air is the primary factor that can destroy silage. A poor seal of a bag, bunker, or pile lets yeast, mould, and aerobic bacteria grow during storage. Mold indicates deterioration, dry matter loss, less nutritional value, and possibly mycotoxins. Mouldy feed and mycotoxins have been associated with lower feed intake, reduced digestibility, and health disorders in dairy animals.

Silage storage units need to be monitored for holes, and patched. Damage by rodents is mainly waste and spoilage due to holes chewed in bags or silage plastic. Weed control and fencing limits rodent populations around storage areas.

Once the silo is opened, the exposed face must be managed to limit the time silage is exposed to oxygen. Oxygen can penetrate several yards into a loosely packed silage mass, but dense forage limits the rate of oxygen infiltration. Good management during feed-out includes 1) matching the face size to the daily removal rate and 2) maintaining a clean, vertical face to stay ahead of aerobic spoilage.

Don’t try to stretch silage inventory by feeding spoiled, moldy, or heated silage to dairy animals. Feed bunks should be kept clean of decaying feed. The quality of the total mixed ration (TMR) should not be compromised by incorporating spoiled silage; poor-quality silage in the TMR creates a poor-quality TMR.

Feeding spoiled silage even at only five per cent of total ration dry matter will reduce intake. Nutrient digestibility and rumen health are compromised. Spoiled silage can partially or totally destroy the forage mat in the rumen. Cows are then more susceptible to metabolic disorders, displaced abomasums, hoof problems, as well reduced milk production. There are also the added dollars spent replacing lost energy and protein in the ration to compensate for the poorer quality. In addition, feeding spoiled silage to dry cows and young heifers can negatively impact their fertility and reproductive efficiency.

Maintaining the high-quality silage you’ve already worked hard to put in storage can be a challenge. But with good management, time and effort preserving that high quality will minimise spoilage and give better animal performance and health.

TheCattleSite News Desk


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