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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Sound Management Practices for Ensiling Whole-Crop Corn and Alfalfa

Authors
item Broderick, Glen
item Muck, Richard
item Shaver, Randy - UW-MADISON

Submitted to: Delicias Internacional Ganadero Lechero Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: July 15, 2003
Publication Date: September 11, 2003
Citation: Broderick, G.A., Muck, R.E., Shaver, R. 2003. Sound management practices for ensiling whole-crop corn and alfalfa. Delicias Internacional Ganadero Lechero Conference. September 11-12, 2003.

Technical Abstract: The silage making process results from complex interactions between the components present in the ensiled crop and the microorganisms naturally present or added at time of ensiling. Plant respiration after ensiling (packing and sealing of the silo) makes the silage mass anaerobic; anaerobic bacteria ferment crop sugars to produce acids, including lactic acid, which drive down pH. Both anaerobiosis and low pH preserve the crop by inhibiting growth of spoilage organisms. The homo-fermentative LAB are the most effective because they produce only lactic acid, which is the strongest acid and is produced from sugar with no DM loss. Because of the complex nature of the factors affecting silage stability, poor quality silage occasionally results even with good silo management. During ensiling, much of the true protein in the crop is broken down to NPN. This is a major problem with hay-crop silages such as AS because these are important sources of dietary CP for the dairy cow. Commercial LAB inoculants are more effective on hay-crop silages than on whole-crop CS; good quality CS is usually possible without applying organisms in addition to the naturally occurring LAB. However, inoculation improves feeding value of both CS and hay-crop silages about 50% of the time. Commercial inoculants should guarantee to supply at least 90 billion live LAB per ton of ensiled crop, should be labeled for the crop ensiled (whole-crop CS or hay-crop silage), and are best validated by independent research backing up any claims made for the product. Inoculants should be used according to directions. Inoculants typically cost about $1 per ton of treated crop material but can range among commercial products (depending on volume purchased) from $0.60 to more than $2 per ton. Future research on inoculants is focusing on finding strains that will improve the aerobic stability (bunk life) of silages.

Last Modified: 10/23/2014
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