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The Milk House

Maximizing silage feed value during hot weather requires extra management PDF Print E-mail
Dairy basics - Feed and Nutrition
Written by Jim Smith   

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Originally published August 1, 2011 and featured in the August 1, 2011 Progressive Dairyman Extra e-newsletter.

Pioneer Hi-Bred’s Jim Smith provided information about managing silage feedout in hot weather. Because this article has been so popular, we reached out to Pioneer to respond to a followup question:

Q. Many areas experienced warmer-than-usual winters and springs. What advice do you have for feed storage this summer when temperatures have already been a bit higher the whole year?

Click here to read Dan Wiersma's five steps for maintaining forage stability.

Temperatures and humidity levels are soaring in most parts of the nation. In addition to making life uncomfortable for livestock and producers, these conditions also make it difficult to manage silage properly for maximum feed value.

The biggest challenge for managing silage feedout in warmer months is caused by temperature increases. When the temperature increases, yeasts and mold in the environment grow exponentially. When that happens, they overtake nutrients in the silage and use them for their own reproduction.

Yeast and mold consume the sugars and the most palatable parts of the silage, leaving the remaining feed less palatable. This happens at the same time livestock already are decreasing feed intake because of the heat.

When feed is less palatable, it compounds the problem. Producers end up with livestock consuming less feed that is less nutritious. This creates a real problem for livestock being able to produce well during that time.

A key to managing feedout in hot weather is to remove at least 8 to 12 inches daily, whether it’s stored in a bunker, pile, upright or bags. This is easier to do if producers use smaller storage structures than when temperatures are lower.

You don’t have to feed as much during the cooler months – maybe 4 to 6 inches – so you can use a larger structure. Producers need to do anything they can to make sure they are feeding 8 to 12 inches during hot weather. If possible, make sure the structure faces east so the hot, late-day sun is not hitting it directly.

Plastic also can protect against the sun. Pioneer recommends leaving excess plastic on the bunkers, bags or piles so it can actually hang down over the face of the silage to keep the sun off it. Rain and other forms of moisture can add to the problem.

The biggest enemies are temperature and air. When those two combine, and with excess water perhaps from rain, you’re going to have more reduction in feed value because of yeast and mold growth. Feeding during the cooler parts of the day also helps.

Finally, treating silage with a high-quality inoculant is essential. During the summer months, producers want to make sure they are using an inoculant from Pioneer with the L. buchneri strain so it will give the extra aerobic stability to the silage during those warmer months. Those are the keys to success.

Livestock appetite and feeding efficiency will pick up again when the weather cools down in the fall. In the meantime, smart silage management will help producers boost feed quality even when the heat is on.  PD

Jim Smith

Livestock Information Manager
Pioneer Hi-Bred


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