Reduce waste to exploit the full value of silage

Forage waste continues to be a major factor reducing efficiency of forage use and leading to higher purchased feed costs on dairy farms. Bryan Buckley from Lallemand Animal Nutrition argues that the opportunity to reduce forage waste needs to be improved to help dairy production become more profitable.

“Reducing forage waste is the quickest and easiest way to increase milk from forage and drive margins and is entirely within the farmer’s control,” he says.  “On average we know that losses during fermentation range from 8-15% of the harvested dry matter, storage losses account for 7-15% and feed out losses are another 4-10%.” 

“So the average dairy farm in UK & Ireland is wasting 20-25% of all the silage they make and less dry matter means less milk from forage.  And as the costs of silage making are largely determined by the crop grown, not the amount fed, this is a huge financial cost.”

He explains that all the principal costs of silage making – fertiliser, contracting, fuel, labour, sheets, inoculant – are scalable based on the acreage grown and the crop harvested.  While the average costs to produce grass silage is £100/tDM, the cost per tonne fed can be very different.

“Your total investment remains the same, irrespective of how much is fed.  If I make 100tDM at £100/tDM, it has cost me £10,000 in total.  If I waste 20% and only feed 80t of it, it has still cost me £10,000 in total but now costs £125/tDM fed.  Cutting silage waste allows you to get a better return on your investment and save on purchased feeds.”

Bryan suggests that if by reducing silage waste you can feed 1kgDM more per cow per day at 11.3MJME/kgDM, you can produce an extra 2.13 litres per cow per day from forage, saving 1kg/day of concentrate as a result.  Assuming a concentrate price of £250/tonne and a 200 day winter, the saving would be £47.50 per cow straight onto the margin over costs feed and forage as the forage costs don’t increase.

“There is no reason that any dairy farmer should accept the levels of waste we currently see and a 10% reduction in waste is a realistic expectation based on attention to detail.”

“The minute the crop is cut it starts to lose energy due to respiration so look to make silage in a day to reduce respiration losses.  Having put as quality grass in the trailer, you need to focus on reducing dry matter and energy losses.”

He advises using Sil-all 4×4+ inoculant at the correct rate on every tonne.  He says leaving a proportion of the crop untreated is a poor decision and can lead to pockets of waste in the clamp.  A combination of homofermentative and heterofermentative bacteria in the inoculant will improve the fermentation and preservation of nutrients while also increasing the aerobic stability, reducing spoilage and heating once the clamp is opened.

Heating is a big issue and is important as heat is produced by burning energy, reducing the feed value of the silage and reducing its production potential. 

He says time spent on attention to detail when building the clamp will ensure less waste and mean less time is spent dealing with the consequences of waste during the winter.

Waste is a major cause of reduced efficiency if the crop is grown but not fed. 

If we can reduce waste, we can feed more silage and reduce purchased feed use.  You have invested to make the forage, so increasing forage efficiency gives you a better return on investment.

For more details on Sil-all 4×4+ inoculant contact your local United Feeds representative or by contacting United Feeds directly on (028) 9075 9000.

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