Arm & Hammer Animal and Food Production

#ScienceHearted tips for improved silage.

Posted August 30, 2022 by Dr. Ben Saylor, Dairy Technical Services Manager

Silage making is a process that’s been perfected with time—over 3,000 years’ time. Under conditions where oxygen is readily available, harvested crops are prone to spoilage. But when stored in an oxygen-free environment, forage nutritive value can be maintained and spoilage prevented.

The process of ensiling involves the fermentation of sugars to lactic acid by lactic acid bacteria. The production of lactic acid and acidification of forages is essential for nutrient preservation and preventing the growth of spoilage organisms.

Whole-plant corn is an ideal crop for ensiling as it contains considerable levels of sugars available for fermentation combined with a low buffering capacity. When harvested and stored properly, corn silage can be a tremendous source of digestible nutrients for dairy cattle.

Numbers to know.

Properly fermented corn silage should have a pH less than 4.0, with lactic acid levels between 3 and 6%. Acetic acid levels are typically between 1 and 3%. Butyric acid should not be present in corn silage that has undergone an optimal fermentation.

When put up at the proper moisture level, and with sufficient kernel processing, 7-h starch digestibility of corn silage should be greater than 75% and should increase with time in storage.

High-quality corn silage should also be free of microorganisms known to be detrimental to cow health and productivity such as clostridia, Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli. Finally, well-fermented corn silage should contain low levels of spoilage organisms like yeasts and molds (<100,000 CFU/g). Below this threshold, corn silage should be relatively stable during feed out with minimal spoilage, heating and loss of nutritive value. 

Ideally, epiphytic (native) bacteria present on corn plants at harvest should be sufficient for an optimal fermentation. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Relying on epiphytic bacterial populations alone may lead to a variable and less efficient fermentation.

#ScienceHearted solutions for silage.

The use of microbial inoculants is one of the most effective strategies to optimize the fermentation and nutritive value of corn silage. Microbial inoculants supply silages with scientifically selected bacteria which work to ensure that a more controlled, dependable and efficient fermentation takes place.

Inoculants are one of the most valuable “insurance policies” available to dairy producers to protect their silage investment. CERTILLUSTM Buchneri and CERTILLUSTM Prime inoculants have been shown to improve silage fermentation and hygiene.

CERTILLUS Buchneri contains a unique strain of Lactobacillus buchneri capable of inhibiting the growth of yeasts and molds in corn silage, sorghum silage and high-moisture corn. Controlling these organisms is essential for reducing spoilage and heating of silage during feed-out.

CERTILLUS Prime contains a specific strain of Bacillus capable of producing antimicrobial peptides that control the outgrowth of clostridia during fermentation and feed-out.

For more information about CERTILLUS Buchneri and CERTILLUS Prime silage inoculants contact your ARM & HAMMER™ representative today.




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About Dr. Ben Saylor

Dr. Saylor has extensive experience in ruminant nutrition including his current role as a dairy technical services manager at Arm & Hammer Animal and Food Production. Dr. Saylor earned his bachelor’s degree in animal sciences from the University of Arizona, a master’s degree in ruminant nutrition from Kansas State University and a Ph.D. in ruminant nutrition from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.



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