Prevention is cheaper than cure

Saving money - less feed wastage.

Every year, once buffer feeding starts, my colleagues and I hear of farmers having problems with heating TMRs and unacceptable levels of feed wastage. 

Often referred to incorrectly as ‘secondary fermentation’, aerobic deterioration or spoilage is caused by the activity of yeasts, followed by moulds, utilising lactic acid and sugars and degrading protein in the presence of air. This can obviously have a huge economic impact where it occurs because these valuable nutrients are lost to the stock that need them and ration palatability is almost always adversely affected, resulting in reduced intakes and animal performance.

For this reason a considerable trade in additives for TMRs which can be added at mixing has developed over the last few years. This approach is ‘closing the stable door after the horse has bolted’ because much of the damage has already occurred in the silo.

Virtually all silage crops are covered in yeasts and moulds at the point of harvest, and maize crops are particularly prone to high levels of these microorganisms because they proliferate during warm and moist summer and autumn weather conditions. They need oxygen to grow, so it is essential to eliminate as much air from the ensiled crop as quickly as possible, which is why an increasing number of UK farmers are insisting on the use of a SilaPactor to consolidate their silage in the clamp. This simple implement has been clearly demonstrated to give better compaction density (up to 40% more silage per m3) than the more traditional approach of rolling with a tractor or loader.

Ensuring that the air remains excluded is, of course, equally important, so getting the job that everybody loves – sheeting the clamp – right is essential. What makes this chore easier and more effective than ever is O2 Barrier 2in1, the single-spread vacuum film/top sheet combination that has been shown to reduce oxygen penetration through the sheet by up to 10 times compared to conventional polyethylene silage sheets.

This approach to good ensiling practice will help to ensure that yeast and mould growth in the clamp is kept to a minimum, but does not necessarily mean that the silage will remain stable for long once exposed to air. The level of these spoilage organisms on the crop at harvest can vary tremendously and they will remain dormant and awaiting their opportunity while deprived of oxygen only to multiply at alarming speed and spoil all the feeds they are mixed with. Since it is not practical at farm scale to determine what levels are present on the crop it makes sense to eliminate the risk by reducing their numbers to the absolute minimum as early as possible during silage making and, as silage-makers throughout Europe have been finding over the last five years or so, there is now a safe and reliable preservative that can do the job. 

Safesil, with its three-way blend of human food-grade preservatives, eliminates the spoilage organisms that cost livestock farmers tens of millions of pounds every year in both visible and unseen feed wastage. Extensive scientific tests, and on-farm results, have shown that Safesil reduces fermentation losses to the minimum and will guarantee* silage with extraordinary aerobic stability. With laboratory analysis of this year’s 1st cut grass silages showing a trend towards energy levels being lower by up to 1MJ/kg DM compared to 2013 analyses it makes sense to ensure that as much valuable energy as possible in later cuts of grass and in maize silage is preserved and not wasted before it gets to the cow’s mouth.

*Journal of Dairy Science 94:824-831

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