Step 4. Treating
Why you shouldn’t just think of an additive as a forage preservative.
Simple. Because trials across a range of forages have shown that treating with a proven additive – in this case the MTD/1 strain of Lactobacillus plantarum in Ecosyl – can do much more:
More silage recovered – from what was put in the clamp.
Across 15 grass silage trials, dry matter recovery with MTD/1 was boosted from 91.8% to 95.5% of the original material ensiled.
TOP TIP: Choose a silage inoculant that reduces dry matter losses and enhances milk production, as well as being easy to use, liquid or dry.
If 1,000 tonnes of DM were originally clamped, that would equate to an extra 37 tonnes back. If silage is worth £30/t, that’s an extra £1,110 return. That alone would go a long way to paying for the additive.
Better silage quality
However, in addition to that, across various trials it has also been shown to:
Improve silage metabolisable energy by an average of 0.7 MJ/kgDM
Improve silage digestibility by an average of 3 D units
Improve dry matter intakes by an average of 5%
Extra milk yield
Most importantly, MTD/1-treated silage has been shown to improve milk yield by an average of an extra 1.2 litres per cow per day (15 trials, various forages).
If you assume 200 days of feeding silage, based on that extra 1.2 litres of milk produced per cow per day, that’s an extra 240 litres. At 20 pence per litre, that’s an extra £48 worth of milk per cow.
Cost-wise, if that cow eats 10 tonnes of silage over winter, the cost of additive for those 10 tonnes would be around £13.
In other words, a £48 return for a £13 investment.
That’s well worth thinking about if you want to produce more milk from what you grow, and rely less on purchased feed.
Multi-cut hints and tips
Although the higher protein content of younger-cut grass is a benefit, nutritionally, it can make the silage more difficult to ferment. Especially since younger grass can also be lower in sugar.
Consequently, the argument for treating with a high-quality additive, to boost fermentation and therefore better preserve nutrients, becomes even stronger.
Here's the explanation…
Sugars tend to be lower in younger-cut grass because they accumulate as the plant develops, and a younger plant simply hasn't had as long to produce them. The problem is, sugars provide the 'fuel' for fermentation - being converted into beneficial (lactic) acid that preserves ('pickles') the grass into silage.
Protein, on the other hand, tends to be higher in younger grass because the plant has already assimilated nitrogen into protein, but this hasn't been 'diluted' yet by further growth.
Unfortunately, this higher protein tends to buffer the fermentation - in other words, neutralise some of the beneficial acid - especially once the protein starts to break down.
So, not only can the acid needed to preserve the silage be in shorter supply, but it can be 'neutralised' to some degree by the higher protein.
Adding a high-quality additive, such as Ecosyl, delivers proven 'good' bacteria into the silage, specially selected to deliver a fast, efficient fermentation. In this way, as much lactic acid is produced in as short a time as possible (rapid pH fall) before the protein exerts its full buffering effects.
Note: The cost of additive treatment per cut is likely to be lower with a multi-cut system, because individual cuts will weigh less, and an additive is applied per tonne.
Volac and Germinal have developed a 10-point multi-cut grass silage checklist, designed to help you get the most from your grass silage making process.