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Think about mycotoxins as silage making approaches
Mycotoxins may be a particular concern when winter feeding is in full flow, but now is the time to take steps to avoid the problem next year.
Good preparation and best-practice throughout the whole process of silage making are the keys to avoiding moulds - which produce the mycotoxins - and could save thousands of pounds in dry matter losses and reduced feed value.
This message comes from our technical director, Andy Strzelecki, who says that a ‘sticking plaster fix’ to mycotoxins is emphatically not the answer.
“Companies with a vested interest like to give the impression that mycotoxin binders are an almost inevitable consequence of preserving forage and other feeds, when the reality is that good preservation can ensure they are unnecessary,” he says.
“We’re not suggesting binders aren’t needed when the ensiled crop has high levels of mycotoxins present before harvest,” he says.
“But we are saying that if a healthy crop is harvested in a clean condition, mycotoxins can be avoided through good ensiling practice from start to finish.”
Independent silage specialist, Dr David Davies, outlines the ground rules for minimising the amount of mould entering the silage clamp and says this may mean cleaning up swards, which are likely to have grown throughout much of a mild winter, right now.
“There’s potentially a lot of dead material in the base of this year’s swards due to the mild autumn, and this dead grass is likely to be contaminated with moulds,” he says. “My advice is to remove this growth, either by topping or preferably by grazing with sheep, before grass growth takes off.”
Other advice he gives includes avoiding dense and narrow swathes during wilting and choosing the right additive.
“There’s a wide range of additives on the market which vary wildly in performance,” he says. “But where conditions are challenging, I would recommend using a forage preservative which contains effective levels of the human food preservatives sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate for long-term mould suppression.”
Trials published in the acclaimed independent Journal of Dairy Science, have demonstrated that this mixture of ingredients ‘guarantees prolonged storage stability in a broad range of silages’ [JDS, 94:824-831].
“This guarantee is one I have never heard given for other silage additives, which is why we put Safesil, the preservative containing these ingredients at the proven levels of inclusion, at the top of our recommendations when eliminating moulds is a must,” continues Andy Strzelecki.
“Once the silage is in the clamp, excluding air quickly and making an airtight seal should then be silage-making basics,” he says.
“However, it’s surprising how often we see poorly compacted clamps, where the use of a SilaPactor (pictured) would have significantly increased the compaction density, compared with a tractor alone,” he says.
“Inadequate sheeting is unfortunately also commonplace, even though it’s well known that an effective oxygen barrier is essential,” he continues.
“But all too often, at least one of these processes is inadequate, which is when there’s unlikely to be a good fermentation, moulds will proliferate and mycotoxins will be produced,” he says.
“It’s true that mycotoxin binders can be used to mitigate the effects of mould growth in silage, but it’s far better to avoid that growth from the outset,” he adds. “This way, farmers can benefit from a higher quality, more hygienic forage with far lower dry matter losses, resulting in better animal health and more meat or milk from every kilo of silage they make.”