Wacek-Driver: Silage Evaluation from the Cow’s Perspective – Six Course Meal or Poor Takeout?

Posted on December 4, 2012 in Forage Foundations
With all of the factors that influence forage quality, Chris Wacek-Driver said “it’s pretty amazing we produce as many high quality forages as we do.”  Wacek-Driver, Vita Plus forage program manager, congratulated harvesters for doing such a good job during her breakout session presentation at the Vita Plus Custom Harvester Meeting 2011.
Wacek-Driver said, “It’s really a war out there” as “bad bugs” compete with good bacteria for nutrients. This is especially evident in clostridial forages. She reminded that, in order to preserve forages, the good bacteria must produce enough acid to lower the pH to a level where bad bacteria can no longer survive. She said the higher the moisture, the more acid is required. In order to produce this acid, bacteria must have enough available sugar. This is where haylages can prove especially challenging. Bacteria need more sugar to produce acid than is even available in alfalfa.
According to Wacek-Driver, the easiest way to prevent clostridia is to limit moisture. Forage should be at least 34 percent dry matter. If the forage is below 34 percent, a lactic acid-producing bacterial inoculant can help to drive the pH down to a level where clostridia can no longer grow.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature sometimes keeps producers from being able to put up forages with optimal dry matter. In the event that you absolutely have to put up a wet forage, Wacek-Driver provides the following guidelines:
  • Put the forage up separately to prevent it from contaminating other forages.
  • If you’ve done everything right, (packing and covering immediately), you will have about 6 to 8 weeks before you see the effects of clostridial forages. That means you should feed the wet forage within two months.
Wacek-Driver reminded producers that clostridial forages produce butyric acid, which is detrimental to the herd in several ways. First, the feeds have a strong rancid smell that can deter intake. It also results in poor utilization of silage nitrogen by the animal. In addition, transition cows have a zero tolerance for butyric acid, which directly influences ketosis in these animals.
If you ever have to put up wet forages, Wacek-Driver recommended you work with your Vita Plus consultant or dealer in developing a plan that meets your specific needs and abilities. If managed correctly, you may be able to limit your losses from clostridial feeds.

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