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Farmers are being advised not to leave silage fermentation to chance next year after a wet spring and variable summer resulted in poor fermentation in clamps across the country.

Reports from the College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in Northern Ireland showed silage dry matters fluctuated from teens to, in some cases, over 50%.

Harry Sykes, Area Sales Manager for EnviroSystems, reports a similar picture on many of his clients’ farms, with increasingly unpredictable weather creating challenges when silage-making.

He said: “Wet and dry silages create challenges for silage fermentation, leading to spoilage and possible secondary fermentation, negatively affecting intakes and cow health.

“Whilst nothing can substitute for good silaging-making practices, the extreme weather conditions we are witnessing are making it harder for farmers to produce consistent, high-quality silages.”

EnviroSystems has been working with their clients to stabilise clamps using a three-strain inoculant, which helps provide an insurance policy when conditions are less than ideal.

How Optisile works  

OptiSile® is a biological silage inoculant designed to treat all types of grass silage. The three strains of lactobacillus bacteria in the inoculant work by outcompeting invasive bacteria or fungi to ensure optimum ensiling of the forage throughout the initial fermentation.

The higher concentration of Lactobacillus plantarum in the product provides a more robust buffering capability of the grass, ensuring a rapid pH drop to promote the initial fermentation.

This not only helps to maximise nutrient preservation, but it also minimises losses, protects against mycotoxins and can help improve palatability and intake.

Most silage additives contain lactobacillus bacteria, but OptiSile has a targeted blend of 3 strains that work together to protect forage from losses.

Mr Sykes explained: “The first strain quickly dominates the forage and secretes large quantities of lactic acid, which provides the driving force behind the rapid pH drop. This creates conditions unfavourable for pathogenic bacteria such as Clostridia and Listeria to survive in.

“Our second strain produces a mixture of lactic and acetic acid, which is included due to acetic acid’s invaluable antifungal activity against mycotoxin producing fungi and yeasts.

“Finally, once the pH of the clamp has lowered to ~ pH 5, strains 1 and 2 slow down, but this is where our third strain thrives, and continues to secrete lactic and acetic acid. This provides long term antimicrobial protection and enhanced air stability once the clamp face is opened during feed out,” he said.

By helping produce a better silage, farmers can get their cows eating more forage, an increased nutrient intake, a higher milk-from-forage return, all whilst requiring less bought-in feed, thereby offering a double return on investment.

Dairy farmer Alan Irwin, Redhouse Holsteins, Northern Ireland says they have had issues with secondary fermentation, even when using other additives.

“Our nutritionist recommended Optisile as it is the best inoculant he has seen working in terms of cow performance across the farms he visits. Before committing, we decided to run a trial looking at different inoculants and found that Optisile was the only one really working.”

Alan says their priority isn’t the primary fermentation in the clamp; it’s about managing secondary fermentation.

“Keeping down secondary fermentation when the clamp is open is important to us. Before using Optisile, the pH was about 3.6, but now it’s up to 4.3.

“We don’t have an issue with secondary fermentation anymore, but we have to ensure the clamp isn’t opened before two months.”

The Irwin’s try to produce drier silage even if that means the grass is left waiting to be harvested. “No matter how long it takes us to get it, we will make a dry silage. Wet silage is not good for the cows. We prefer grass to be too dry than too wet, as we can always add water into the mixer wagon to produce the ideal dry matter of 38-42%, without having the acid load of wetter silage,” he says.

They are harvesting 140 acres in the first and second cut and then 120 acres for the third cut. They have invested in a new self-propelled forage harvester, which chops shorter, enabling a better consolidation in the clamp.

Learn More  

Farmers can read more about Optisile here