Bacterial inoculants are effective tools to protect silage nutrients in challenging situations

Posted on April 24, 2024 in Forage Foundations
By Michelle Chang-Der Bedrosian, Vita Plus forage products and dairy technical service specialist

A rapid decline in pH is crucial to achieving an optimal silage fermentation, preserving silage nutrients, and maximizing the feed’s value.  Research-proven bacterial inoculants are valuable tools in driving this rapid pH decline amidst the variables that can affect the ensiling process.

‘Bad bugs’ damage forage quality
Clostridia and Enterobacteria have detrimental effects on silage quality.  They are epiphytic microorganisms, meaning they are found everywhere.  These microorganisms consume quality proteins and produce ammonia, butyric acid, and biogenic amines such as putrescine and cadaverine.  This causes a decline in nutritional quality and palatability, creating silage that may be dangerous to feed to cows.  At low dry matter (DM) and high pH, both Clostridia and Enterobacteria can outcompete lactic acid bacteria, resulting in massive spoilage.  When fed to livestock, clostridial silages result in lower DM intake and reduced animal performance.

Recently, Dr. Limin Kung Jr., a global leader in silage research, was asked, “What is the most important part of making quality silages?”  He discussed creating the right environment at harvest to quickly drive down the silage pH.  A more acidic environment (lower pH) in the silo, resulting from rapid lactic acid production, limits the growth of undesirable microorganisms, such as Clostridia and Enterobacteria, and the damage they cause.

Therefore, proper ensiling techniques — including the proper DM at harvest, adequate packing and prompt sealing — are crucial in minimizing the growth of these detrimental bacteria and preserving silage quality.  Bacterial inoculants also can play a key role in lactic acid production and the subsequent rapid pH decline.

Inoculating, sealing and preserving silages
The most important part of sealing a silo is doing it safely.  Employee exhaustion, weather, and loss of daylight can increase the danger associated with covering a pile.  Silages should be covered as soon as they can be by alert employees who are able to see clearly and work safely.  Many producers describe bacterial inoculants as “an insurance policy” for situations of delayed sealing and other silage management challenges.

Vita Plus offers two silage inoculants to promote the upfront fermentation and preserve the crop’s nutrients:  Crop-N-Rich® MTD/1® and Drive.  Both offer:

  • Bacterial upfront fermenters that decrease the pH of the silage quickly – even before the silo is sealed.
  • Superior mixability.
  • An application rate of 1 gram per ton of forage.
  • A scoop to measure inoculant in 50-treated-ton increments so the right amount of inoculant is applied and the package can be resealed between uses.
  • Ability to double concentration in the applicator tank, provided the tank is rinsed between fillings.

The differences between the two options help producers discern which option fits best into their needs.  Crop-N-Rich MTD/1 is a single-strain, pure inoculant, whereas Drive has three lactic acid bacteria strains.  Crop-N-Rich MTD/1 has hundreds of research trials to support its performance; Drive has a moderate amount of unpublished research.

Many producers prefer a research-proven inoculant and lean toward Crop-N-Rich MTD/1.  However, Drive offers a more economical alternative for producers and can be ideal for producers with excellent management that simply want an insurance policy.

Speak with a Vita Plus consultant to determine the best tool to help get the most from your forages.

This article was originally written for the December 29, 2023, guest blog of Hoard’s Dairyman. Click here for the original article.

Category: Feed quality and nutrition
Forage Foundations
Forage harvesting
Forage inoculants
Forage storage and management