Don’t let summer heat spoil your feeds

Posted on July 13, 2016 in Dairy Performance
By Dr. Michelle Windle
The sun is shining, the smell of grilled brats is in the air, ice cream is on my mind and the kids are laughing as they run through the sprinkler.

There’s no denying it.  It’s summertime and with warmer temperatures come TMR heating and spoiling.  Common effects of spoilage include DM and nutrient losses; heated feeds; decreased digestibility, feed value, feed quality, palatability and intakes; reproductive issues; sick animals; lost milk production; and higher vet bills.  Here are some tips to minimize or mitigate spoilage:

  • Don’t feed underfermented feeds.  Ideally, corn should ferment for at least three months and alfalfa/grass silages should ferment for at least three to four weeks prior to feeding.  This allows time for the pH to drop and spoilage microorganisms to enter dormancy or die.  If silos are opened early, the feeds are more prone to spoilage.
  • Keep a clean silo face to minimize surface area.  An uneven face has more surface area for oxygen exposure and is more prone to spoilage.  Consider using a facer to minimize surface area on bunkers and piles.
  • Feed out faster in warm weather to stay ahead of spoilage.  Experts recommend a minimum summer feeding rate of 12 inches per day for piles or bunkers and more for bags:
  • Add less water to the TMR.  It is not uncommon to add water to the TMR for various reasons.  However, more moisture can stimulate growth of spoilage microorganisms.
  • Shave and mix twice a day instead of once a day.
  • Pitch spoiled feed and ensure the bunk is clean before you put new feed in it.  When you mix old or spoiled feed with fresh feed, you are inoculating the fresh feed with detrimental microorganisms and it will spoil much faster.
  • Consider putting down a thin layer of bicarb on the feeding platform.  It seems to keep the platform fresher smelling and dry for a short time in humid weather, allowing for a little more intake that day.
  • Use a buffered propionic acid product.  When deciding between a solid or liquid product, consider application method because even distribution is key.  Also, pay attention to the concentration.  Typically, liquid products are more concentrated than solid and may be cheaper.  Start with 2 to 3 pounds of product per ton of TMR and see how it works.  You may need more if the TMR is still heating in the bunk.
  • If you must feed spoiled feed, use a binder or probiotic.  Yeast, Fortress LG, Rum-N-Ferm or Omnigen® are good options.
  • Next year, use an inoculant to manage spoilage.  Research shows it is cheaper, easier and more effective to treat at ensiling with an inoculant than at the feed wagon with an acid.  A little planning goes a long way.  If you have spoilage now, odds are you will next year too unless you take action to prevent it from recurring.
  • Mitigate heat stress.  It is already hot and you are feeding spoiled feed.  Take measures to ensure sprinklers and fans are on, animals aren’t in the scorching sun to eat or sleep, and heat stress is managed.

At every step along the way – prior to ensiling, during diet formulation, mixing, shaving, feeding, and even while the animals are not even eating – steps can be taken to minimize and mitigate the effects of spoiled feed so cows can enjoy the beautiful summer just as much as we humans (and our drenched kids) do!

About the author:  Dr. Michelle Windle is a Vita Plus forage products and dairy technical service specialist. Windle earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal science at the University of Delaware. She continued there to earn her Ph.D. in animal and food science, specializing in forage research with Dr. Limin Kung. Her thesis research centered on the use of a protease to improve starch digestibility earlier in the ensiling process. A New Jersey native, Windle gained much of her farm experience during her collegiate years, milking cows, working in a forage laboratory, and performing dairy research. Based in Madison, Wisconsin, Windle’s responsibilities at Vita Plus include forage product research and development, dairy research, and dairy technical services.

Category: Dairy Performance
Feed additives
Feed quality and nutrition
Forage storage and management