Step 3. Treating

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Maize silage can be prone to losses from inefficient fermentation. These losses are invisible and can run at about 8% for maize harvested at the recommended dry matter content. However in some cases they may be higher – e.g. with some suggestion that DM losses can be as high as 20- 30% between the field (pre-harvest) and what finally ends up in the rumen.

More recognisably, maize silage is also very prone to losses that occur when the silage heats up. These losses take place when naturally-occurring yeasts on the crop survive the fermentation process and initiate the process of aerobic spoilage (characterised by heating) once the maize silage clamp is opened. This affects the keeping quality and allows the growth of moulds that can potentially produce mycotoxins, which carry through to the ration.

Greener maize with a higher moisture content may need extra help with fermentation. That said, even if harvesting maize at the correct DM, the base of the plant is almost certainly starting to senesce, so will contain a lot of yeasts and moulds that will be introduced into the silage clamp.

Select the right additive

When it comes to selecting a silage additive, there are two areas to be addressed: the fermentation and aerobic spoilage (heating).

Treating to improve the fermentation can certainly pay dividends, as the more efficient bacteria in Ecosyl (Lactobacillus plantarum MTD/1) will help to overcome the high levels of poor bacteria that can be present – e.g. in the leaf joints and on any damaged or dying leaves. Improving the fermentation has also been shown to improve animal performance and should be the basis of any treatment.

If heating is considered a risk, then using a combination product combining MTD/1 with either a second bacterium such as Lactobacillus buchneri PJB/1 (as in the product Ecocool) or with a chemical preservative, will also help to keep the clamp cooler for longer.

Some examples of the benefits of including Lactobacillus plantarum MTD/1 bacteria to produce a faster, more efficient initial fermentation:

  • Makes better use of available sugars
  • Preserves more nitrogen as true protein
  • Reduces fermentation DM losses
  • Minimises undesirable microbial activity
  • Animal performance

Some examples of the benefits of including Lactobacillus buchneri PJB/1 bacteria to inhibit the activities of the yeasts and moulds that cause aerobic spoilage:

  • Less heating
  • Less physical waste
  • Less risk of mycotoxins
  • Lower DM losses
  • Higher energy feed

An example of a silage additive containing both of these beneficial bacteria is Ecocool.


TOP TIP: Select the right type of silage additive to give you greater control of the microbial processes in the silage clamp. Choose one that covers both fermentation efficiency and aerobic spoilage (heating). 


Benefits of Ultra Low Volume (ULV) application

Certain bacterial additives can be applied in ultra-low volumes of water – down to just 20 ml/tonne of forage.

Compared with traditional, higher water volumes, ULV can offer a number of benefits to both the contractor applying the additive and to the farmer whose crop is being treated:

  • Much less fetching and carrying of water – allowing more time to be spent at the clamp e.g. on consolidation, which is also important for producing good silage
  • Less mixing and fewer stoppages in the field to fill up – leading to time savings
  • More acres harvested per day – leading to increased chance of harvesting crops in optimum condition e.g. if the weather breaks

Before using this method, check first whether your silage additive is approved / suitable for ULV application. Some silage additives (e.g. Ecocool) are suitable, but others are not.

Want to learn more about maize silage? Take a look at the next steps.