Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

This year's high dry matter silages more prone to spoilage


Gerry Giggins

One positive that can be taken from the fodder scarcity earlier this year is that most farmers were focused on producing forage for the winter and building up reserves that were badly depleted. Now that we are into the feeding season, an important area to focus on is the proper management of the forage pit to ensure minimum wastage.

Throughout April and May farmers were urged to look at forage alternatives and cereals that would bolster their feed supply. The options I promoted were forage maize, wholecrop cereals, cereal grain and root crops. In most cases, these crops were grown very successfully and are now supplying high quality, cost-effective alternatives to grass silage.

Forage maize, especially crops that were grown under plastic, exceeded expectations in terms of yield, quality and ease of harvesting. This was all a result of the fantastic growing season.

Typically, good maize silage would have an analysis of 25-30pc dry matter, 10.7-11.1 ME, 24-30pc starch and 7-9pc crude protein. However, this year, average analysis is showing dry matters exceeding 34pc and starch levels as high as 40pc. Analysis such as this helps to explain the benefit of maize silage in a beef ration.

With these starch levels, maize silage should replace significant amounts of concentrates in finisher diets.

High dry matter and high starch content maize is also a perfect complement to wet, leafy grass silage, which is quite common this year.

One challenge that high quality maize silage will pose is its stability at the pit face during the feeding season. The combination of high dry matter and high grain content means compaction at the time of ensiling was difficult.


Also Read

Secondary fermentation at the pit face will not only result in a loss of feed value but also, through the build-up of mycotoxins, impair the function of the rumen resulting in greatly reduced animal performance. Most preservation additives and inoculants will significantly reduce pit face deterioration, however their use is not as widespread as I feel they should be.

Like maize silage, wholecrop pits can be quite difficult to manage once opened. Correct pit face management is essential to ensure issues with secondary fermentation don't occur. Pulling down the plastic sheet after the removal of forage may deter birds, but the trapped air will rapidly increase the rate of secondary fermentation. Using a bird-proof net on the pit face or pulling down only the protective cover are the best options

I am also encountering a greater number of cases of grain spoilage and heating in the past few weeks. This heating is as a result of grain mite infestation. Severe infestations result in a brownish tinge over the grain, called 'mite dust'. This dust gives off a minty odour when the mites are crushed.

Prevention is the best strategy to avoid mite problems in stored grains. Proper store sanitation before introduction of new grain minimises the need for pesticides. Any grain remaining when a store is emptied can harbour insect infestations which will move into the new grain.

In some cases, treating a grain store prior to storage with an appropriate pesticide may be necessary where a bad infestation has occurred. In cases where infestation has occurred there are products designed to kill mites.

The powder is simply sprinkled on the whole clamp surface very lightly, similar to sowing lawn seed. It is then lightly raked over and left for 24 hours, after which point the grain is then safe to feed to all animals.

Large volumes of beet have already been harvested and is now in storage. The severe weather of 2010/2011 has taught us that this beet, if stored outdoors, needs to be protected. Loose covering with plastic will give some protection.

A method I have been advising is to firstly cover the beet with a similar protective cover as is used on maize pits and then putting a light covering of straw over this.

Gerry Giggins is an independent animal nutritionist. Email:

Irish Independent