If you’re a livestock or silage producer, one of the main goals is to produce high-quality feed. However, a major obstacle in achieving that goal is dry matter loss, commonly known as "silage shrink".
You work hard to produce healthy crops and properly store them, but unfortunately, the non-beneficial microbes that consume nutrients and release heat and CO2 are eating away at your profits. That’s why using a silage inoculant is so important.
In this article, we’ll talk about how you can prevent dry matter loss and how much you could save by using an inoculant on your silage.
How to Reduce Silage Dry Matter Loss
There are a few key steps you can take to minimize the loss of your feed.
Chop your crops at the proper moisture level. For corn silage, 60-70% is the ideal moisture for proper fermentation which helps preserve your feed.
Fill and pack your storage area whether it’s a pile, bunker or silo as quickly and thoroughly as possible. The more silage is packed - the less oxygen exposure and time harmful bacteria have to consume your feed.
Cover your silage as quickly as possible with a tarp to reduce air exposure. Research shows that air can permeate 30-100 cm (11-40 inches) per day from the silage surface, leading to up to 35% dry matter loss due to surface area exposure.
Use a high-quality inoculant to protect your feed from spoilage. Inoculants help speed up fermentation and rapidly drop pH to reduce dry matter loss. Wait until your pile’s pH is at 4 before feeding the silage to your livestock.
How to Save 5% Dry Matter Loss in Silage
On average, an inoculant can save you up to 5% in dry matter loss, which may not sound like a lot, but consider this:
If 5% is equivalent to 5 acres out of 100, how much money did you spend on those 5 acres for them just to disappear?
If the cost to produce those 5 acres was $800 per acre (rough estimate for seed, land rent, harvesting, hauling, spraying, planting, chemical, fertilizer, etc.) you’re looking at $4,000 lost out of every 100 acres you produce.
It’s also important to note that the microbes go after the most digestible and highest-quality nutrients first, which means that in addition to dry matter loss, you’re also losing nutrients and quality in the remaining silage.
The bottom line, even if all you’re getting out of your silage inoculant is dry matter loss savings, it’s enough to pay for itself several times over.
What Corn Silage Inoculant is Best?
Choosing the right inoculant can make all the difference in your feed preservation. Silage bacterial inoculants are divided into two categories based on how they ferment glucose (plant sugar) - homofermenters and heterofermenters.
Homofermenters only produce lactic acid and include species like Lactobacillus plantarum, Pediococcus, and Enterococcus. These types of inoculants are ideal for legume-based silages, such as alfalfa or clover, which have high levels of water-soluble carbohydrates. Homofermenters are efficient at converting these carbohydrates to lactic acid which helps lower the pH of the silage and reduces the risk of spoilage.
Heterofermenters, on the other hand, produce lactic acid, acetic acid (ethanol) and carbon dioxide. Lactobacillus buchneri or L. buncheri is an excellent example of a heterofermenter. These types of inoculants are often used for corn silage or grass silage, which have a lower level of water-soluble carbohydrates. Heterofermenters produce acetic acid which helps inhibit the growth of microbes that prefer a low-pH environment. This is particularly important when feeding silage to high-producing dairy cows.
It's best to choose an inoculant that has undergone independent testing and contains various strains of bacteria tailored to your specific crops. Make sure the inoculant is suitable for both your crops and the livestock you’re feeding.
Save More Silage with Anchor
Agnition’s Anchor™ for Silage is an encapsulated inoculant blend, reinforced by Microbial Catalyst® technology to lower pH levels in forage and lock in nutrients for maximum preservation. Anchor uses a diverse blend of beneficial bacteria, each carefully selected to rapidly reduce pH within a specific range and drive efficient fermentation.
Research studies show that haylage treated with Anchor experienced more efficient fermentation with reduced heating, resulting in greater energy in the final feed than the competitor haylage.