Forage Quality

Taking control of what you can: Forage Quality

 

Harvest season is soon upon us, so let’s turn our attention to those things we have control over in the forage program.  Crop Maturity, Packing and Storage, and Inoculation.  These 3 things have a profound effect on the quality of forage you’ll have to feed your animals.  High quality, home-grown forages are the cornerstone to an economical and healthy diet.

 

Harvesting grasses and alfalfas at a young stage of development provides high protein levels and highly digestible nutrients.  Being ‘late to the dance’, and this might only be 4-5 days, especially with some grass species can be the difference between superb feed and average feed as seen in table 1.

 

Table 1: 

 

Harvest Date 5/18

Harvest Date 5/22

CP

22.3

23.2

NDF

41.6

44.1

NDFD30

73.8

66.9

uNDF240

3.4

17.9

RVF

149

139

RVQ

181

160

 

Having harvested top quality forage, it must be put away properly. Having poor packing density, means there is excessive air in the silage.  This leads to a slow and poor fermentation, proliferation of undesirable organisms (yeasts and molds) and breakdown of valuable nutrients.  This all leads to excessive dry matter loss.  The goal should be to hit 18# dry matter/ft3.  Under that and you incur dry matter loss (i.e shrink) that doesn’t have to be.  In table 2 you can see the difference 18 and 15 packing density results in a loss of around 3%.  In a 2,500 ton pile of corn silage at $40/ton you lost 75 ton of feed worth $3,000.  Recommendation; pack, pack, pack!

 

Table 2: Density vs Loss

Density lb/ft

DM loss (%)

10

20

14

27

15

16

16

15

18

13

22

10

 

Lastly, inoculating.  Yes, inoculating comes with a price to put it on, but, in short, not inoculating actually costs you more money.  Research proven products, like Ecosyl and Ecocool, have published data showing they significantly improve fermentation, reduce shrink and preserve valuable nutrients.  Additionally, dairy cow trials have shown cows fed forage treated with Ecosyl have increased milk production (table 3).

                                                              

 

Table 3: Dairy Cow Trials with Ecosyl Inoculant

Author/Researcher

Milk Yield (lb/day)

 

Control

Ecosyl

Block

79.81

82.67

Kung

76.72

80.03

Kung

80.47

84.45

Satter

63.71

64.81

Fish

62.61

68.12

Muck

87.30

89.10

Average

75.10

78.20

Difference

 

3.09

% change

 

4.12

 

 

In today’s economic climate it’s imperative to focus on those things one can control and to choose products that provide a solid, proven ROI.  Visit with us today to learn more.  Happy foraging.