Q. What Are the Main Causes of Silage Losses?

A. To maximize both dry matter (DM) and valuable silage nutrients retained in the silage, you need to be aware of the two main areas of silage losses:

1) DM loss or shrink during the initial ensiling; and

2) Aerobic spoilage.

First, it’s important to understand how much you may actually be losing. A slow initial fermentation leads to shrink, which steals tons of DM and results in less available feed. In the worst cases, this can result in nasty, unfeedable silage due to clostridial spoilage. It is important to realize that the most digestible nutrients are lost first, increasing the true cost of shrink losses.

Aerobic spoilage can result in excessive heating and lead to mold growth. Visibly moldy silage has lost most of its nutritive value, as, again, the most valuable, digestible nutrients go first. Moldy silage may even contain toxic compounds (mycotoxins) and should be discarded to avoid possible health and fertility issues.

There is no magic bullet for preventing silage losses: you need to practice good silage management from harvest to feedout. Sound harvest, ensiling and feedout practices, including the use of inoculants proven in independent research trials to help improve the ensiling fermentation and feedout stability, can limit losses and ensure you’re retaining tons of forage and feeding the highest quality silages possible.

For more information on industry-wide best practices on silage management, request your free Silage Management Technical Guide at qualitysilage.com/lallemand-forward-handbooks/

For additional silage tips, visit www.qualitysilage.com or Ask the Silage Dr. on Twitter or Facebook.