Moving silage from one location to another — or from one structure to another — challenges the ensiled forage against its worst enemy: oxygen.
Oxygen is the worst enemy of high quality silage, both at initial ensiling and silage opening. Exposure to oxygen at opening can reignite the growth of aerobic organisms, especially yeasts (the initiators of silage aerobic stability issues). At best, this means dry matter (DM) and nutrients are lost. At worst, the initial growth of yeasts can be succeeded by other spoilage organisms, some of which may produce toxins that can affect production levels and even fertility and herd health.
There are six important considerations when moving silage:
- Make sure the silage is a good candidate for transfer. Moving silages that may be prone to aerobic spoilage can result in significant losses and issues as noted above. Testing pH is not enough. Lactic acid (the main driver of the pH drop in silages) can actually be used by spoilage yeasts as a food source. Lab analyses of the fermentation acid profile are essential: look for elevated levels (>2 percent) of the antimycotic (yeast and mold killing) acids, acetic and/or propionic.
- Move silages as quickly as possible to reduce the amount of oxygen introduced. Minimize the aeration of the silage being transferred, such as by mixing.
- Move silages during the coolest weather possible, especially if the acetic/propionic acid levels are marginal. Warmer weather provides better conditions for spoilage organisms to grow.
- Pay close attention to plastic management, packing density and sealing of the re-ensiled material, as all can be managed to reduce exposure to oxygen.
- If the silage has not been treated at ensiling with an inoculant proven to help improve aerobic stability, consider using chemical preservatives that contain antifungal compounds.
- If you plan to move silage, be sure to treat it with an inoculant containing high rate Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 at the time of ensiling, which is reviewed by the FDA and allowed to claim efficacy in preventing the growth of yeasts and molds in silages and HMC.