You know that your silage quality and feedability directly impacts the amount of feed you need to buy in. Getting the cut timing and fermentation right will maximise protein, digestible fibre and dry matter retention, reduce spoilage and shrinkage and increase digestibility to boost milk production from your forage.
To get the best quality silage, it’s helpful to think of all forages as arable crops, even the grass, with a clear agronomic plan tailored to maximise the growth and quality of the crop. This way you will set the forage up for a successful growth phase. Before making silage, pre-cut testing will also help you keep track of grass quality. Aim to be ready to start mowing two weeks prior to the “normal” cutting date for the farm and go during the best weather window in those two weeks if the quality is there. It’s not about making 4+ cuts, it’s about the digestibility of the grass at cutting. Every 5-unit increase in D-value produces approx. 40,000 litres of additional milk from the same 1,000t of 30% DM silage.
Treating your grass silage with an inoculant is also proven to help retain valuable protein and enhance digestible fibre in silage. There are naturally occurring microbes that break down protein in their metabolism, producing foul-smelling silage acids, leading to nutrient loss and reduced silage palatability. These microbes can be inhibited quickly if you use a proven, specific forage inoculant to rapidly drop the pH below the level where they can be active.
There are 3 fibre types wound together that make up the fibre fraction in forage, these fibres are made up of linked sugars which can be released to help fuel the fermentation by using specific enzymes. This enzyme action unwinds the fibre types when releasing sugars making the fibre fraction of the forage more digestible in the rumen. The forage inoculants in the MAGNIVA PLATINUM range formulated specifically for grass under wet or dry conditions have been shown to retain up to 4% more protein in grass silage, increasing the cow’s supply of rumen-friendly protein and reducing the need for expensive bought in protein. This alone typically saves you 4-5p/cow/day in feeding costs by improving the utilisation of home-grown feeds. Other impacts are in dry matter retention (up to 15% more) and improvements in fibre digestibility (up to 13% more) in your silage.
Other important points to consider alongside the inoculant if you want to maximise the amount of protein retained in your grass silage:
- Do not wilt grass for more than 24 hours. Studies have shown that up to 20% of the initial protein will be broken down when grass is wilted for >24 hours.
- Only mow the amount of grass that can be picked up before rain, because wet grass has a higher rate of protein breakdown than dry grass.
- Spread slurry far enough in advance (minimum 4 weeks) so no residue is left on the leaf surface, because slurry is rich in microbes that break down protein.
Other impacts of using Magniva inoculants are in dry matter retention (up to 15% more) and improvements in fibre digestibility (up to 13% more) in your silage. There are 3 fibre types wound together that make up the fibre fraction in forage. These fibres are made up of linked sugars, which can be released by using specific enzymes to help fuel the fermentation. These enzymes (xylanase and β glucanase) are found in all Magniva forage inoculants. This enzyme action unwinds the fibre types whilst releasing sugars, making the fibre fraction of the forage more digestible in the rumen.
If you want to maximise the digestibility of your forage consider the maturity of the grass when you cut it. Only two of the three fibre types are digestible in the rumen and as the grass matures the proportion of the indigestible type of fibre increases making the forage inherently less digestible before it is ensiled. A common measure of fibre is called neutral detergent fibre (NDF), and it should be between 38-40% for the grass to be at the optimal digestibility.