In the fall many dairy producers see slumps in production and feed intake. This is often due to an abrupt change from old corn silage to green chop or recently fermented corn silage.

“Preparing for the switch and easing the transition can help maintain production levels and avoid health changes that we commonly see in the fall,” says Angel Aguilar, Ph.D., Dipl. ACAN, Technical Services Manager, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “There are some easy ways to make the change-over more gradual and adjust the ration to compensate for differences in the newer material. This helps ensure the operation’s profitability doesn’t hit a slump either.”

To avoid a fall slump, Aguilar recommends the following strategies:

1. If possible, allow silage to ensile for at least four months before feeding. As silage spends additional time in storage, the starch becomes more digestible. This is particularly important for silage harvested above 35% dry matter (DM) when the starch in corn kernels starts to become less digestible. Additionally, flint varieties have lower starch digestibility than floury ones.

2. Use a proven silage inoculant containing enzymes. Inoculants with high-activity enzymes can help break down plant fiber and thus aid in fiber digestibility. The product label should clearly state guaranteed levels that are validated effective by independent research studies.

3. Gradually change silos during a two or, preferably, 4 week period to help cattle more easily adjust to the new material. “Introduce the new silage as 25% of the silage, wait a week, then increase to 50%, wait another week and raise to 75%, then on week 4 go over to 100% new” Aguilar advises.

4. Test new silages for DM and nutrient content. Silages normally present a different composition from one silo to the next and from year to year. Producers should pay particular attention to differences in fiber levels, neutral detergent fiber (NDF) digestibility, starch level and  digestibility and DM, and adjust the ration as appropriate..

5. Include an active dry yeast (ADY) probiotic. Fresh or recently fermented silages may contain high levels of fermentable sugars, which can contribute to Sub Acute Ruminal Acidosis (SARA) in a herd. SARA is a sustained period of time with lowered pH levels in the rumen. When SARA occurs, the animal’s ability to use the ration efficiently is impaired and can lead to other, more serious health problems.

“ADY probiotics that include the strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae CNCM I-1077 have a high capacity to increase pH and increase fiber digestibility in the rumen,” Aguilar notes. “Probiotic feed additives can help improve rumen function and increase fiber digestion. This can help avoid a slump in production any time of the year.”

Lallemand Animal Nutrition is uniquely positioned to help producers avoid the causes of production slumps. The company researches, develops and markets microbial strains that are specific and scientifically selected, which manage forages from ensiling to feedout and ADY products that help optimize animals’ digestive systems.

“Often, there isn’t just one culprit when we see a drop in production,” Aguilar says. “In times like these, producers can call on their veterinarian, nutritionist and other trusted advisers to help determine the cause and get production back in line.”