Looking to keep your silage fresher for longer? Silage inoculants are just what you need. But with countless products available today, finding the right one can be a challenge. Let’s explore the pros and cons of popular inoculants and discover how to make the best choice for your farm.
Types of Silage Inoculants
Silage inoculants contain live anaerobic bacteria that produce preserving acids that help ferment the crops faster. Silage inoculants can be divided into two categories - homofermenters and heterofermenters depending on how they ferment a common plant sugar, glucose.
Homofermenters produce just lactic acid and include species like Lactobacillus plantarum, Pediococcus, and Enterococcus. These inoculants are ideal for legume-based silages, such as alfalfa or clover, which have high levels of water-soluble carbohydrates. Homofermenters are the most efficient fermentation microbes. Meaning, they’re the most effective at converting soluble sugar to preserving acids and lowering the pH of the silage to reduce the risk of spoilage.
Heterofermenters, on the other hand, produce lactic acid, acetic acid and carbon dioxide. Lactobacillus buchneri or L. buchneri is an excellent example of a heterofermenter. This type of inoculant is often used for corn silage or grass silage, which have a lower level of water-soluble carbohydrates. Heterofermenters also produce acetic acid (vinegar) which helps inhibit the growth of microbes that prefer a low-pH environment. However, heterofermenters are less efficient at fermentation, consuming more energy and taking longer to fully reduce the pH.
What’s L. Buchneri?
One of the most popular heterofermenter inoculants on the market today is L. buchneri. This well-researched inoculant enhances the aerobic stability of silage. Meaning, it reduces silage heating at feedout and improves bunk life.
Most silage producers are concerned with bunk life, or how long silage stays cool after you take it out of the pile. When silage is opened up, it can lead to secondary decomposition that causes spoilage. In some cases, up to 10-20% dry matter loss in just a few days. By using L. buchneri, producers can inhibit yeast growth and limit spoilage at feed out.
Is L. Buchneri Right for You?
While L. buchneri can limit spoilage at feed out, it does have its drawbacks. This type of inoculant is a very slow fermenter, typically taking 45 to 60 days to produce effective levels of acetic acid. Due to this slow fermentation, dry matter losses are much more substantial than with homofermenters.
Another limitation is the optimal pH for the growth of L. buchneri bacteria. The pH for L. buchneri growth must be above 5, and research shows that if there’s a rapid drop in pH, L. buchneri growth will be inhibited.
Lastly, L. buchneri can have an impact on cattle feed intake. Cows prefer sweet-smelling lactic acid over the vinegar smell produced by acetic acid. The latest USDA Forage Research Center research shows a 3.5% animal performance increase with lactic acid-producing silage inoculants. The same results were not observed with the acetic acid-producing strains such as L. buchneri.
The bottom line, sometimes you might need to use L. buchneri on your farm but it’s important to keep in mind that doing so can result in a 3-5% increase in dry matter loss and a 3-5% decrease in animal performance. These factors should be taken into account when considering the costs and benefits of using this inoculant.
Selecting the Best Inoculant
Rapid fermentation is essential in an inoculant. It helps reduce mold and yeast growth and effectively preserves silage to protect it from unwanted bacteria that reduce quality. The fermentation process is complete when the pH of silage drops below 4.5 and it’s safe to feed. The faster an inoculant can achieve this, the less spoilage occurs.
For homofermenters and heterofermenters, the time it takes to complete fermentation varies widely. For heterofermenters like L. buchneri it can take 45-60 days. For homofermenters it can as little as 7-10 days.
Look for inoculants with independent testing that are proven to rapidly drop pH. Do your homework and look closely at the blend of bacteria it contains and the preserving acids it creates. The best inoculants will create high levels of lactic acid and propionic acid that are more effective in preserving silage than inoculants with acetic acid and drop the silage pH much faster.
Try This Homofermenter: Anchor™ for Silage
Agnition’s Anchor™ for Silage is an encapsulated inoculant blend, reinforced by Microbial Catalyst® technology that rapidly lowers pH levels in forage and locks in nutrients for maximum preservation. Anchor is a homofermenter that uses a diverse blend of beneficial bacteria, each carefully selected to rapidly reduce pH within a specific range and drive efficient fermentation.
Research shows that haylage treated with Anchor experiences less heating during fermentation. This results in less dry matter loss as indicated by a higher ash residue in the competitor-treated haylage.
Haylage treated with Anchor also contained more dry matter and available energy. Meaning, competitor haylage experienced more heating and dry matter losses.