SELECTING the right wilting technique when making grass silage can make wilting speed as much as five times faster, according to results of new Ecosyl UK research.
“The benefits of wilting are not only that it reduces the risk of clamp effluent, but also that it produces a more nutrient-dense silage, improves silage intakes, and reduces the acid load produced during the fermentation,” says Volac silage expert Ken Stroud.
Wilting to 28-32 per cent DM gives the best balance between minimising effluent and minimising field and clamp losses, he says. However, wilting should be achieved in the shortest possible time because as soon as grass is cut its nutritional quality starts to decline.
“Sugars and proteins are degraded by the grass, but undesirable micro-organisms present will also multiply up and feed on the sugars and break down the protein,” says Mr Stroud.
There are various views about whether grass should be cut in the morning or afternoon, but ultimately it is a race against time to wilt and ensile as rapidly as possible. Lost silage energy equates to lost milk.
Research has examined the effects of tedding, time of day cutting and crop maturity on rate of crop drying.
Conducted using farm-scale silage machinery on farms in Wales, the research compared the effects of tedding, time of day of cutting, and crop maturity on the rate of crop drying. Findings from a first trial in Pembrokeshire on a light, multi-cut grass crop cut on a warm, dry July day revealed that cutting at 10am and tedding immediately resulted in grass reaching a target dry matter (DM) content of 30 per cent in just 4.5 hours.
That compared with seven hours to reach 30 per cent DM if grass was not tedded until five hours after cutting, or a full 24 hours if grass was left untedded in rows.
Where cutting was delayed until 3pm, grass again reached 30 per cent DM in five hours if tedded immediately after cutting but required a full 23 hours to reach this if not tedded until the following morning. Where the 3pm cut was left untedded, it failed to achieve 30 per cent DM at all – reaching only 24 per cent even after 24 hours.
“Results overall showed that the average drying rate of 1.0 per cent DM per hour for the grass cut at 10am and tedded immediately was five times faster than the rate of 0.2 per cent DM per hour for the grass cut at 3pm and left in rows,” explains Ecosyl silage scientist Dr Mark Leggett.
Tedding reduces wilting times substantially. Along with practices such as good consolidation and ensiling with a proven additive to preserve nutrients and dry matter in the clamp, wilting rapidly is another key step to help farmers produce consistently better silage,” Dr Leggett adds.
Ecosyl applies one million highly-efficient Lactobacillus plantarum MTD/1 bacteria per gram of forage treated when used correctly – to dominate the fermentation in favour of lactic acid production and reduce DM losses through the fermentation process.
“Research on the MTD/1 strain in Ecosyl has shown that it not only produces much faster pH falls than an untreated fermentation but also halves DM losses (see fig below) and conserves better nutritional quality – with improved energy content and true protein preservation over untreated silage recorded in trials.
“Perhaps most important of all, results from 15 independent dairy feeding trials on a range of forages showed that silage preserved with MTD/1, as in Ecosyl, gave an average of an extra 1.2 litres of milk per cow per day.”
n Find out about more of the benefits of using Ecosyl at uk.ecosyl.com/products/11-ecosyl-100#
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