Quality Silage Inoculants can Improve Nutritive Quality & Provide a Substantial ROI

Jul 07, 2020

Kyle Cederberg
Countryside Feed Sales & Nutrition Professional
There are a number of important management factors that go into producing quality silage. For example, chopping forage at the recommended length promotes proper packing, faster air exclusion and even distribution. Proper packing, in turn, helps prevent the yeast and mold growth that can lead to excessive heating and dry matter (DM) loss. And adequately sealing the surface with high quality plastic is also important, as it minimizes aerobic spoilage. In fact, there can be significant DM loss in the top 3 feet of an uncovered silage pile, even though it may appear that only the top foot or so is affected.
Another best management practice of ensiling is using quality bacterial inoculants to enhance the silage preservation process. While they can’t turn poor silage into good silage, inoculants can significantly reduce DM loss, which increases feeding value. Better feeding value results in improved feed-to-gain or feed-to-milk ratios and increased live weight gain and milk production per ton of ensiled crop.
Other benefits of inoculated vs. non-inoculated silages include1:
  • Lower and more stable pH
  • Higher levels of lactic acid
  • Lower levels of acetic acid and butyric acid
  • Significantly lower ethanol and ammonia levels
  • Increased nutrient preservation
Before you go out and purchase an inoculant, it’s important to recognize that not all bacterial strains are created equal when it comes to effectively preserving forages and high moisture corn.
Just because a silage inoculant says “Lactobacillus planterum” on the label doesn’t mean that the specific strain number is a quality functioning bacteria. Some specific strain numbers don’t survive to an ensiled terminal pH, and some don’t multiply rapidly. Some manufacturers of “off brand” inoculants may quote general research that is not specific for their specific bacteria strain number.
If inoculant pricing sounds too good to be true, there is probably a reason. Some off-brand manufacturers put low-cost, non-performing bacteria in their bottle. Others may create complicated labels and end up with less than acceptable levels of bacteria in the final application in order to save cost.
The good news is that you don’t run into these kinds of problems with reputable inoculant brands. That’s why we carry only high quality inoculant products at Countryside Feed, like Kem LAC® HD and Kem LAC®LB 500 water-soluble silage inoculants from Kemin Industries. Quality inoculants like these are backed by university and field research trials, and can save 5 to 10% in silage dry matter shrinkage compared to non-inoculated silage.
These high quality silage inoculants include:
  • Live, homofermentative lactic acid bacteria with at least 100,000 Colony Forming Units per gram (CFU/g) of wet forage.
  • A supply of adequate bacteria levels without the uncertainty of pre-fermentation.
  • Sealed in moisture proof barrier packaging and contain a patented moisture scavenger for maximum shelf life.
  • A “best used by” date as well as a lot number for product traceability.
  • A guarantee that products meet or exceed stated levels of viable bacteria for 18 months for dry-applied inoculants and 24 months for water-soluble inoculants.
  • Kemin inoculants contain special additives that allow bacteria to remain stable and viable in chlorinated water.
Finally, as a side note, some older choppers still utilize large, non-insulated water tanks for inoculants. They should not be used to mix a long day’s amount of inoculant, as the time and heat exposure could harm the bacteria viability.
I encourage you to consult your local Countryside Feed representative for assistance in selecting the right silage inoculant for your operation. In addition to having your best interests in mind, they provide value-added service and support by answering questions, offering application tips and more.
* Dr. Peter Karnezos “Ensiling Forages: What are the important factors?”

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