In times of low milk prices, dairy producers may be looking to cut input costs. One area that shouldn't be cut is a forage inoculant, advises Renato Schmidt, Ph.D., Forage Products Specialist, Lallemand Animal Nutrition.
"Adding a research-proven inoculant is a relatively low-cost way to ensure a plentiful supply of stable high-quality feedstuffs with high intake potentials, providing the cornerstone of a ration and setting producers up for high production," Dr. Schmidt says. "In the long run, it costs more to purchase additional feed to replace spoiled silages, to supplement to boost production from feed that has lost energy and nutrients due to a poor ensiling fermentation, or when operations simply see a drop in milk production due to low-quality preserved forages."
Most producers see the importance of adding inoculants to their ensiled forages. In a market survey, about 74 percent say inoculants are so valuable that even low profitability market cycles do not impact their inoculant use.1
"Still, that suggests that just over a quarter of dairy producers may be eliminating a small input cost and risking improperly fermented or unstable forages," Dr. Schmidt cautions. "This leaves producers open to huge risks in feed costs, which is the largest expense for most producers."
Producing silage that maximizes both the quality and quantity of forage crops preserved helps to reduce feed costs. Inoculants can contribute to reduced dry matter (DM) and energy losses. Around 15 percent DM loss is to be expected, but 10 percent or more in additional losses can be prevented through good management practices, including using proven inoculants. Preventing just 10 percent in additional DM losses can save producers approximately $44,000 a year.2
"The true losses are even higher, as it is the most digestible nutrients that disappear first," Dr. Schmidt cautions. "Plus, they are being used up by spoilage microorganisms that may cause other issues that affect production or herd health - and may even produce toxins, for example mycotoxins."
To improve nutrient, energy and DM retention, Dr. Schmidt recommends producers choose an inoculant proven to help provide fast, efficient fermentation. Specifically, an inoculant containing the lactic acid bacteria Pediococcus pentosaceus 12455 - fueled by sugars generated by high activity enzymes - helps promote a fast, efficient front-end fermentation.
Inoculants also can help retain important nutrients in silage and keep the silage more stable during feedout. This contributes to robust cattle health and milk production. In fact, just under 80 percent of producers say they use inoculants to help minimize mold and spoilage.1
Choosing an inoculant with Lactobacillus buchneri can help improve the aerobic stability of silage. In fact, the specific strain, Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 - when applied at 400,000 CFU per gram of silage or 600,000 CFU per gram of high-moisture corn (HMC) - is the only inoculant bacteria strain reviewed by the FDA and allowed to claim improved aerobic stability, based on the thorough documentation of its efficacy in independent trials. Additionally, research at the University of Delaware has shown that TMRs produced from silages treated with the high rate L. buchneri 40788 are more stable than TMRs produced with the untreated silage3.
"On average, forages make up between 40 to 60 percent of a typical dairy ration," Dr. Schmidt says. "It's easier and more cost effective to balance rations when producers produce high-quality silage in the first place. A research-proven inoculant can help producers do just that. It just makes bottom-line sense no matter what economic conditions dairy producers may face."