The Relevance of Silage to AFIA Members And how to get it more right if you are in the game….because we as a nation are CRAP AT SILAGE . Its too mature and too dry
Why would you as an AFIA member be into silage ?It’s a hay organisation right ? ( oh OK , silage is fodder for sure !)
1- You make and trade It : • Ideally you are cutting early , to conserve the best low maturity fodder, that makes premium silage, the most animal output, and you get a premium for your efforts • Or…You see a big front coming and want to wrap it before it fully curred down • Or…Its already wet and you wrap it before its snot
2- You are serving , advising and working for a client • Ideally you are cutting early , to conserve the best low maturity fodder, that makes premium silage, the most animal output, and you get a premium for your efforts • Or…You see a big front coming and want to wrap it before it fully curred down • Or…Its already wet and you wrap it before its snot
3- Spread your season and “utalisation” • Silage often gets going earlier than hay , that is good. • Early silage( quality) gets going earlier …spreads the work load a bit • Hay runs till Xmas or there abouts • Summer crop pit silages ( maize / sorghum) run well after Xmas….that is spreading it further • Just more work overall in a season
The upsides ! • Quality and animal performance , based on earlier cutting date and less maturity • Flexability earlier in a season or with a higher moisture
The down sides ! • It costs more than hay to make silage • It is a lot more tricky with extra steps and risks to go wrong • If selling it , You transport water around the countryside on a truck…silage is less smart on a truck
General Forage Conservation: Some principles apply in both silage and hay production: centrally….plant maturity is crucial to outcomes • A huge pile of hay or silage may lend a warm inner glow , but does it make any money if its crap? • Would I rather 300T of good fodder or 500T of rubbish ? • Lets stick it in front of 100 Beef steers at 300kg
The seasonal progression • Feed type Better silage/hay Worse silage/hay • ME 9.5 8.2 • NDF% 50 65 • ADF% 36 45 $/t 1 130 100
The numbers on 300kg steer growth • Hay type OK Poor • Intake KGDM/d 7 5.5 • Energy intake 66 45 • Growth rate g/d 520 70 • Days to gain 50kg 96 700 • Kg Feed/kg gain 13 77
FCR = 13kg feed per 1kg meat gained 300,000kg/ 13=23,000 kg weight gain $46,000 of weight with input of 300T at $130/t = $39,000 +$7000 FCR = 77 kg feed per 1kg meat gained 500,000/77 =6450 kg weight gain $12,900 of weight with input of 500T at $100/t = $50,000 -$37,000 300T of good vs 500T poor hay/silage
The Outcome in $ Beef • Feed Good OK Poor • Growth rate g/d 1300 520 70 • % of feed making meat 56% 31% 3% • Kg Feed/kg gain6.8 13 77 • Feed cents/kg 10 10 10 • Cost to gain1kg $0.68 $1.30 $7.70 • (So how good is that overly mature bulk of hay or silage now )
WHAT EVER YOU CUT :CUT FOR QUALITY NOT CRAP • Quality drives production, volume is a false economy and false confidence • If you need crap , buy straw .That is often there, you can nearly always find crap if you need • If cutting things in your control…cut early and cut quality. • Its harder to BUY quality
The special wonders of silage (and a few extra challenges)
Some comments on silage • The british and northern Europeans or some bugger “invented” it to do forage when hay was impossible… you reckon Victoria is wet and cold . Think of Ireland and Scotland mate ! • Gives the ability to Cut early in the season for quality without 5 dry days. Wilting helps for sure , but don’t cut late just to get a wilt….no one in Ireland has real vision of getting a big wilt, but they make good silage still
Cut early and compact the billy-oh out of it with a big tractor , water in the wheels and just singles not duels…it’s about weight driving down to get rid of oxygen. Compaction is king • Time of cut drives maturity , thus compactability and thus performance and preservation in the end…not just Nutrients from a less mature fodder • Better feed quality and less spoilage risk : Cool
What makes good silage outcomes • 1- Time of cut, not mature (we can put this into numbers) • 2- Good fermentation (we can put this into numbers) • 3- Managing secondary fermentation • 4- managing toxins production • 5- Low wastage at feed out
Silage follows same rules of nutrients as other fodders, + some • Hay and pasture quality can be measured with protein, ME, NDF ...all pretty straight forward, and about maturity as we said • Silage needs those numbers , but it needs more to measure how it “ferments” and pickles and preserves...and feeds out ! • Intake , energy yield etc all impacted by these more unusual paremeters
Some extra parameters • Dry matter: aim 30-40% pit 35-45% bales • pH: aim 4.0-4.7 (How stable) • Lactic acid: aim over 5% (the preserving acid) • Acetic acid: aim low (under 2%, wrong acid) • L:A ratio : aim high is best, at least over 3:1 • Ammonia: aim low , under 1% (protein good quality ,not degraded) • WSC: more is better , aim for 5-15%. Sugars! • Butyric: Any is bad , aim for zero !
Good silage tests, with only hay numbers Silage number 1 2 3 4 NDF% 46 39 50 48 Protein 19 17 17 20 Treatment Innoc innoc. Innoc nothing All look pretty good on the face of it , based on maturity as it were !
Good silage tests- watch your dry matter even with good forage Silage number 1 2 3 4 NDF% 46 39 50 48 Protein 19 17 17 20 Treatment Innoc innoc. Innoc nothing Silage parameters Dry matter% 30 36 40 25* pH 4.29 4.0 4.3 5.1 Lactic% 6.87 8.61 4.03 2.78 Acetic% 3.39 0.97 0.43 6.20 Lac/Acet ratio 2.03 8.91 9.37 0.45 Ammonia% 0.93 0.25 0.35 2.4% WSC% 9.6 11.6 15 6.5
The two big things that I reckon commonly make it damn hard to get it right • 1- Excess maturity: less sugars to ferment to acid , more fibre and lignin to impede compaction ( less than 50% NDF ) • 2- Too dry: If we want bugs to grow and ferment , it needs to be damp enough to grow bugs properly • ( 25-35% DM for pit , 35-40% Bale)
The right tool for your silage type, inoculants are not always the optimal tool in Australia C A Silage NDF or Maturity or difficulty to compact or oxygen retained B D Silage Dry Matter
If you know its not “silage” gear….ponder on how you manage risk • Knowledge on this simple wee matrix makes things more clear • Probably half the time preservatives are a better bet than innoculants, as it was never going to ferment and all we can hope is to ensure spoilage doesn’t occur…as that brings on a whole raft of further challenges • Or do it as hay !!!!
Understand the process ! • Silage is complex , and we can cock it up in nearly all the ways we can cock up hay…and then some extra ones ! • 6 stages of silage management are generally seen….yep 6!!!
Stage1- Aerobic run down • Still air in stack/bale • Aerobic oxidation = heat gain • Short pahse , just a fewe hours with good delivery and compaction • If longer = more spoilage risk as mould and yeast persist with air • pH still high
Stage2- Air gone. Fermentation starts • Heterofermenters kick in , egEnterobacteria and Peddicocci. Handle the high pH and the heat. • Acid starts forming from plant sugars Acetic and lactic acid • Lasts 1-3 days as things “kick off” • Gets pH down to about pH 5
Stage3: Transition to full fermentation • Transition to proper lactic acid bugs and more good strong acid. • Enterobacteria die back with pH drop • Change occurs over 1-2 days as bug populations in the forage change
Stage4- Classic period of lactic acid accumulation • If we get it right , we get ongoing conversion of sugars to lactic acid in a stable bug population. • Terminal pH determined by sugars on offer , moisture and natural acid buffering ( eg legumes !) • Terminal pH doesn’t mean it GOT THERE IDEALLY…but it’s a guide !
Stage 5- Its stable silage • Its now pickled grass ! • No oxygen , lots of acid • no spoilage bugs as they cant live with the acid or without the oxygen • Cooler now too
Stage6- Feed out and oxygen penetration again • Oxygen is back in, and with that comes potential spoilage agin • Yeasts can live on lactic acid ! • Manage the pit face …clean face not crusty guys ! • Potential for L buchneri or L Brevis to help. Like wise preservatives
Whats important • Get in it fast • Get it in tight • Get it immature enough to compact • Get it in immature enough to have some sugars • Get it in with some moisture • Pack the crap out of it
What do innoculants do if they then ? • If you can get a fermentation going they get the bug numbers growing and get the pH down to terminal pH faster…and some times at a bit lower pH • This can be a really good thing I assure you ! • L. Buchneri or L Brevis both impede re growth of spoilage bugs when we feed out the bale or open the pit • Silage stays cooler after opening • All innoculants are not the same !!
FERMENTATION PROFILE Don’t just assume its about lactic acid bugs…remember they are about stage 3 of the bugs in action !
Secondary Fermentation • After opening , microbes come back and grow, consuming further nutrients • Silage heats at the face • Lactic acid can be a food for some ! • Mould growth and toxin production can then occur AFTER the pit is opened • Undoes some good work • Manage your face carefully
Mycotoxins: a common problem if we get silage wrong • All about oxygen,with oxygen comes problems from mould and fungi • With this comes possible toxins • Take home point…no mould is OK mould! • If you have it , then look at Mycotoxin management products egElitox = 6c/day • My arvo today- Cobram Vets with Dodgy sorghum silage. Lets count how it went wrong !!
Mouldcolours in conserved forage Reference: Dr. Bill Mahanna, "Prevention And (If Necessary) Management of Moldy Silage."
Danger levels for Mould growth- a context for risk Interpretation Guidelines for Mold Counts * col/gm (colonies per gram)
Favoured temperature ranges for moulds that make Mycotoxins Aflatoxins Zearalenone Don T2
Some Innovation That I think is handy • 1- Understanding what product type has a application when • ( not just…” maaate… I ‘noculated it mate !”) • Use the right stuff …..some times an innoculant , some times a preservative…some times just don’t do it as silage !!!