Beware of spoilage perils in summer-fed silage

Warmer weather is causing problems of aerobic wastage in silage clamps opened for summer feeding, livestock farmers are being warned.

Warm conditions encourage yeast and mould growth

According to Ecosyl silage specialist, Darran Ward, increased year-round-housing of herds over the last decade means more silage clamps are now opened and exposed to air during summer weather – providing ideal conditions for aerobic spoilage organisms of yeasts and moulds to thrive.

"It’s definitely more of a problem,” says Mr Ward. “Warm conditions encourage yeast and mould growth. We’ve been getting enquiries from farmers asking what they can do?

"Really you should be feeding consistent quality silage throughout the year. Yeasts and moulds in silage upset the balance of bugs in the rumen – affecting animal health and performance. They can also have long term effects on cow health, and affect palatability and intake" ,he adds.

Taking preventative steps when making silage

Although silage can be treated against yeasts and moulds at feedout in a total mixed ration, Mr Ward says it is better to take preventative steps earlier, when silage is made.

“Quantity and quality losses from spoilage organisms occur all through the winter. It’s just that symptoms aren’t as visible. If making silage for feeding next summer, you need to be planning ahead.

"There’s no single solution. Instead, use a joined-up approach paying particular attention to effective consolidation, to effective silage clamp sealing, and to using a proven silage additive to tackle spoilage organisms at source."

Pay attention to consolidation of the silage clamp

Well over of half of silage clamps aren’t consolidated enough, Mr Ward estimates, with people often underestimating the amount of weight needed and being eager to get the clamp filled.

“Silage clamps are usually filled in a wedge, rather than layers, which can make it more difficult to precisely achieve the maximum six inches depth you need for effective consolidation. Ultimately, the silage face needs to feel solid. Air ingress gives yeasts and moulds what they need – they’ve already got plenty of food.

“When sealing, you’re effectively trying to create an airtight bag, but often people don’t use side sheets. For the top, use an oxygen barrier film before putting the black sheet on, and watch the joins at the shoulders – they’re a key source of air ingress,” he says.

“With maize, I see a lot of clamps where crows have pecked through the sheet and let air in. It’s simple to stop them by putting a mesh on top of the tyres.

Using a proven silage additive

"For a silage additive, you want something that will both improve fermentation and protect against yeasts and moulds. But check that it contains bacteria proven to improve animal performance. You want to make sure you get a good return on investment."

“The warmer period highlights the challenges of effective preservation,” Mr Ward adds.

"Mycotoxins are also a result of mould growth in feedstuffs. If you can reduce the amount of mycotoxins ingested, you reduce their impact on animal health."

Cut to Clamp offers expert advice and practical tips on all 6 key stages of silage production; Cutting, Wilting, Harvesting, Treating, Clamping and Feeding, to help farmers understand what they can do on their farm to improve their results.

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