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    Inoculant treated big bale silage achieves highest quality forage: ADAS results
13/03/06

Ensiling big bale silage with an inoculant this coming season will help to reduce losses and achieve a higher quality forage over untreated bales, according to results from trials at ADAS Pwllpeiran Research Centre, near Aberystwyth. These conclusions provide real opportunities for livestock farmers to benefit, with fewer than 5% estimated to be using an inoculant on big bales currently.

Grass silage bales were wrapped in Volac Topwrap Eco-green film and treated with Agros Dominator, a new, highly concentrated biological inoculant developed for use on 20%DM to 30% DM grass silage wilted for more than 12 hours. The Agros Dominator treated silage showed a more efficient fermentation, resulting in a lower pH and improved fermentation acid profile.  Ammonia N levels were significantly reduced, indicating that less protein was broken down, resulting in higher quality silage.

Grass silage from Pwllpeiran’s 1,300ha LFA unit was ensiled at a target 27% DM following a 24 hour wilt in situ. At baling, the inoculant was applied using an applicator spraying over the pickup reel of the baler. Immediately after baling, the bales were carted from the field to the storage area and individually wrapped with six layers of Topwrap Ecogreen wrap and stacked in a single layer. The bales were opened 17 weeks later and assessed. Bales treated with inoculant had a significantly higher organic matter digestibility and ME, together with a lower level of ammonium nitrogen as a % of total N. In addition, the treated bales had a lower pH and there was a significant difference in acid ratio. See table 1:

Table 1: Analysis comparison of big bale silage treated with inoculant vs untreated 

On dry matter basis (g/kg DM)

Control

Agros Dominator treated

Organic matter digestibility

64.5

67.8

ME (MJ/kg DM)

10.31

10.83

DM %

33.2

31.4

Ammonia N as % total N

8.1

6.5

pH

4.74

4.41

Total fermentation acids

22.8

19.6

Lactic acid

8.9

11.5

Acetic acid

3.7

1.5

Ratio of lactic to acetic

3.3

9.4

N-Butyric acid

6.8

4.8

Source: ADAS Pwllpeiran, 2005

“Big bale silage accounts for more than 20% of the total amount of silage conserved in the UK, however it is estimated that over 95% of farmers are still not using an inoculant on big bales, leaving considerable scope for livestock farmers to make significant cost-effective improvements to their forage quality this coming season,” explains Phil Jones of Volac International.

“While farmers pay enormous attention to detail in maximising the quality of first-cut clamp silage, this trial has demonstrated that adopting a similar mindset to making big bales will help them to make more from their resources.” 

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