by Amanda Smith, Associate Editor
packing silage

On the road to preservation, silage goes through four phases: aerobic, fermentation, storage and, finally, feedout.

During the anaerobic phase, the crop uses up sugars and protein while it respires. At this point, aerobic bacteria, which are alive and well, use up sugar and protein. These bacteria produce heat and take and convert the protein that should go to the cow and to ammonia.

The fermentation phase cannot begin until oxygen is eliminated from the pile. Once the silage has fermented, it enters a stable phase until oxygen is reintroduced at feedout.

At the Vita Plus Dairy Summit, Michelle Windle shared her "cheat sheet" to avoid silage spoilage.

Harvest at the proper moisture level: Ideally, corn silage will be harvested between 32 and 35 percent dry matter, depending on your storage structure (chart below). Moisture at harvest will affect silage spoilage almost a year later.

Windle asked the audience to think of their silage pile as a sponge. Porosity is a measure of the air spaces within the pile. The lower the porosity number, the more air you are able to squish out of the pile. The porosity rises as density drops, and the silage's dry matter content rises.

Pack to achieve optimum density: Piles should be packed tightly in 6- to 8-inch layers with an appropriate number of tractors. To determine how many tons you can pack per hour, divide the pack tractor weight by 800.

Cover promptly with good-quality plastic: Piles should be covered as soon as possible after packing. For an overview of your plastic options, click here.

Manage the silo: Check your bags or bunker covers regularly for holes. Keep the face clean, and only knock down enough feed to meet your daily needs and stay ahead of spoilage.

While prevention is the best route, if you have to use spoiled silage, dilution, probiotics or binders may be potential solutions. "But dilution may reduce feedout rate and exacerbate the problem," added Windle.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2016
January 4, 2016
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