Preserving protein in the silo and the rumen

Posted on June 17, 2020 in Forage Foundations
By Dr. Michelle Chang-Der Bedrosian, Vita Plus forage products and dairy technical specialist
Protein is the most expensive part of a dairy cow’s diet, and the amount of dietary protein, along with protein digestion efficiency, can affect profitability of the farm on a large scale.  At the end of the day, preserving as much true protein quality in homegrown forages is an important part of ensiling your forages, and utilizing that protein efficiently will lead to greater overall profitability.  One way to help achieve both of those goals is by using a research-proven forage inoculant.

As soon as the silo is sealed, plant proteins start breaking down rapidly.  Some breakdown is a good thing, but if the proteins break down too much during storage, then nitrogen is released as ammonia, which rumen microorganisms can’t use efficiently.  Protein degradation can also result in the production of highly unpalatable products, which decreases intakes.

One of the easiest ways to inhibit protein degradation is to quickly reduce the silage pH.  The rapid pH drop reduces the activity of undesirable microorganisms that would otherwise break down key amino acids into biogenic amines, such as putrescine and cadaverine, which negatively impact animal health, protein digestion, intake, and rumen function.  Numerous research trials have confirmed treating forages with an inoculant, such as Vita Plus Crop-N-Rich® with MTD/1 technology, will result in a rapid decrease in pH that will help retain more true protein, which can be used more efficiently in the rumen.  Chart 1 illustrates some of the benefits of a rapid pH reduction.

In addition to the benefits of a rapid decrease in pH, it is also a well-known fact that inoculants can improve animal performance over a wide range of crops and ensiling conditions.

Research at the USDA Dairy Forage Research Center found that silages treated with Crop-N-Rich inoculant resulted in less ruminal gas production and more rumen microbial protein.  This could explain the benefits seen in production and nitrogen utilization associated with Crop-N-Rich-treated forages.

In another trial using fourth-cut alfalfa, researchers found forages treated with Crop-N-Rich resulted in an improved silage fermentation. When fed as part of a total mixed ration (TMR) (50% alfalfa silage, 21% corn silage, 22% high moisture shell corn), they saw a significantly higher milk yield and a significant reduction in milk urea nitrogen. This suggests more of the dietary nitrogen is converted into microbial protein, which aligns with the previous study done at the Dairy Forage Research Center.

When you preserve more true protein, your animals will perform more efficiently, which keeps more money in your pockets.  You may not be able to control all the variables when it comes to harvest, but you can control the forage inoculant you use.  Talk with your Vita Plus consultant to learn more about forage management and how our Crop-N-Rich forage inoculants can help you achieve your production goals.

Category: Forage Foundations
Forage inoculants
Forage storage and management