With favorable milk-to-feed price ratios continuing, the U.S. dairy herd is set to increase production into 2015.1 When planning to expand, it’s important to prepare sufficient inventory of high quality silage, a driver of profitability.
“Having top quality silage will maintain production levels while growing your business,” says Bob Charley, Ph.D., Forage Products Manager, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “Once the investment in expansion has been made, keeping production per cow at peak levels will help producers see returns more quickly.”
Now is the time to assess how much silage will be needed after expansion goals are met. Charley reminds producers to estimate for each group of animals fed different levels of silage.
Once you know the quantity of silage needed, he advises producers ensure there is adequate storage available ─ ideally to allow corn silage to “cook” for 12 months to achieve maximum starch digestibility. When expanding, storage may be an area identified to conserve capital investment. Piles, bags and wrapped bales can offer economical storage options. In addition, University of Wisconsin researchers found that there are no economies of scale above 758 tons of DM stored.2
Next, Charley notes that it’s important to keep focusing on silage quality to achieve the optimum production per cow. Low DM losses can help conserve both quantity of forage and nutrients.
“When DM is lost, it is the most digestible nutrients that go first,” he says. “As a consequence, what is left will be less digestible and less nutritious. It is the trifecta of inefficient silage management: DM losses, lower digestibility and lower nutrient value. Variety selection, growth period and harvest timing are all important considerations.
“Pay attention to the forage maturity and DM content as you’re harvesting,” Charley says. “Forage that’s too wet can be prone to seepage. On the other hand, forage that’s too dry is difficult to compact and more likely to suffer aerobic spoilage from yeasts and molds, which can affect feedout stability.”
To battle these challenges, he recommends adding an inoculant that will help rapidly lower the forage pH and also inhibit aerobic (spoilage) microbes. The strain Pediococcus pentosaceus 12455 provides fast and efficient fermentation upfront, which can help maximize DM recovery. Incorporating Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 will help reduce yeast activity and spoilage during feed-out. For maximum protection, combine these two elite, high-performance bacteria with Biotal® Buchneri 500.
“Inoculants aren’t just for growers that have encountered challenges in the past,” he says. “Tailor inoculant choices to the challenges to be faced, which depend on factors like the crop to be ensiled, the preferred storage method, time to fill and seal the storage structure, potential feedout challenges, etc. This can help improve quality and quantity of silage. In turn, it helps maximize a producer’s expansion investment more quickly.”
Source: Lallemand Animal Nutrition
1 Mathews K. Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook. U.S. Departmetn of Agriculture. Oct. 17, 2014. Accessed Nov. 14, 2014. Available at: http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/1688226/ldpm-244.pdf.
2 Holmes, B. J. 1998. Sizing and managing silage storage to maximize profitability. Four State Forage Feeding and Management Conference Proc. Pages 55-64.