Moving and re-ensiling silage – Dr. Michelle Windle, Vita Plus

Posted on March 23, 2018 in Forage Foundations
By Dr. Michelle Windle, Vita Plus forage products and dairy technical specialist
Why would I move silage?
You could have to move already-stored silage for many reasons.  A few examples include:

  • At the time of harvest, the only space for storage is far from where the animals reside and needs to be brought in periodically.
  • A bag silo is damaged so severely and needs to be re-ensiled into a different structure.
  • The silage needs to be moved to expand pad space.

All three of these diverse situations have one thing in common – a predisposition for spoilage.

What is the problem with moving silage?
During the initial ensiling process, plants are covered in naturally occurring yeasts.  Typically, after an efficient silo sealing, oxygen is excluded and the yeasts cannot grow or thrive.  However, when silages are exposed to oxygen, such as if they are moved, oxygen “wakes up” the yeasts and can cause massive spoilage.

The best ways to combat spoilage are to eliminate oxygen as quickly as possible or to minimize the growth of spoilage yeasts.

Eliminating oxygen as quickly as possible
One of the best ways to eliminate oxygen as quickly as possible when moving silages is to ensure that the silage is well-packed.  Packing to a good density will reduce oxygen pockets throughout the silo.  Good management practices for this include measuring stretch marks on bag silos or ensuring sufficient tractor weight on a pile or bunker.

Another way to eliminate oxygen when moving silage is to ensure that the silage is covered with a high-quality oxygen barrier plastic, such as Silostop®.

One tip to eliminate oxygen as quickly as possible is to attach a shop vacuum to a silo and let it run for a length of time.  It is also helpful to put pantyhose over the shop vacuum to ensure silage is not sucked into the vacuum.

Minimizing the growth of spoilage yeasts
Inoculating silage with an L. buchneri-based inoculant, such as Crop-N-Rich® Buchneri inoculant, will result in slightly higher levels of acetic acid, a powerful antifungal compound.  If you know you are going to need to move silage, this is definitely the most cost-effective and proven strategy.

However, it is not always possible to foresee the need to move silage.  Once silage has gone through the initial fermentation, re-inoculating is not effective because the vast majority of available sugars will have already been consumed by microorganisms in the upfront fermentation.

If silages have not been inoculated with L. buchneri, you can treat the silages with a high-quality antifungal acid, such as buffered propionic acid (found in Bunklife® feed preservative), at 3 to 5 pounds per ton (as-fed).

Additionally, if you have to move silage, it is best to move it during cold weather to minimize the chance of spoilage.

Moving silage from one location to another is never ideal because it predisposes the feed to spoilage. However, you can minimize the impact of this practice.  For more help on how to manage moved feed, feel free to contact a Vita Plus nutritionist or forage specialist.

Category: Forage Foundations
Forage storage and management