Silage inoculants are essential for preserving high-quality silage. Inoculants contain live anaerobic (without oxygen) bacteria that produce lactic acid which help drop pH and ferment forages faster.
However, these helpful bacteria are very delicate. Many producers don’t realize they could damage these bacteria in storage or application, causing them to lose their functionality.
Learn about some of the unexpected culprits that could be sabotaging your fermentation process and tips for protecting your inoculant below.
Why is Your Silage Inoculant Delicate?
Silage inoculants are packed with living bacteria that are remarkably fragile. These bacteria are crucial in keeping silage fresh by fermenting carbohydrates (aka plant sugars) and producing powerful organic acids like lactic acid. These acids lower the pH below 4 to lock in nutrients and prevent mold and yeast growth which can harm livestock.
However, in order for these bacteria to work, they need the perfect conditions to survive and multiply. Without successful fermentation, your silage could be at risk of spoilage and lead to poor animal performance.
3 Things That Are Killing Your Inoculant:
1. City water
City water contains chlorine, which is added to eliminate harmful bacteria and make it safe to drink. This chlorine is an antimicrobial agent, meaning it'll kill the live bacteria in your inoculant. To prevent this, use a water stabilizer to neutralize any chlorine in the water. This’ll ensure your water is safe to mix with your inoculant.
It’s important to keep chlorine below 1 ppm or use an inoculant that contains additives to deal with the chlorine.
2. Well water
If you have a well, you can get water before it’s treated with chemicals, such as chlorine or hydrogen peroxide. Many wells have a spigot before the filter equipment that's used to treat the water. This untreated water is safer for mixing your inoculant and will prevent the live bacteria from being killed.
Most inoculants must be stored in cool places and can’t get too hot. At 100°F, microbe populations start to decline in as little as three hours. Water temperature can be influenced by exposure to sunshine, engine heat transfer and initial water temperature.
If your inoculant gets warm, populations of bacteria will grow rapidly and use up all of the sugar in the tank, essentially starving them before they're placed on your silage pile. Or, if your inoculant is exposed to elevated temperatures before application, the bacteria populations can die, so it needs to remain cold to function effectively.
Keep these tips in mind for optimal inoculant results. Avoid storing your inoculant in hot places like your pickup or tractor. When applying, make sure the water in your tanks stays below 85ºF. Consider using insulated tanks or adding frozen water bottles to the solution. Just be cautious not to use ice alone in the tank, as it will melt and dilute the inoculant over time.
Inoculants That Don’t Need to Be Refrigerated
Many inoculant formulations have a short shelf life and require adequate storage, transportation and handling conditions to maintain the bacterial quality of the product. However, advances in technology and innovation have led to the development of dry-formulated inoculants that don’t require refrigeration or any special storage conditions. Such inoculants have excellent viability and efficacy to deliver dependable bacterial counts.
Agnition’s Anchor™ for Silage is one of those dry innovative inoculants. Using an advanced bacteria blend, Microbial Catalyst® technology and a unique encapsulation process, Anchor safeguards beneficial bacteria during storage and boosts their effectiveness in the silage pile. When activated, each inoculant granule rapidly drops pH for improved fermentation all without the need for refrigeration.