Note: This was originally posted in May, 2013. But the message from Dr. Kung is timeless. Scenario 4 below is the only clear path to high quality silage and plenty of it. Here’s how to use good bugs to get there.
Don’t you just love it when someone says something that you’ve heard before and you may already believe – but they say it in such a way it makes you think: “A-HAH! I never thought about it that way!”
Last week Dr. Limin Kung traveled to California and was kind enough to speak at a Monday evening dinner meeting and a Tuesday lunch gathering for us, providing one A-HAH moment after another. If you missed it, here is a brief synopsis of his major points, although I am sure you would have loved his delivery. He is not who you would expect as a forage speaker. He’s Hawaiian, did not grow up on a farm, found out cows were cool in a random dairy class he took in college, and has been researching, teaching and mentoring in the silage world ever since. And he has a great laugh.
Don’t miss him next time.
Four scenarios can and will happen with your forage harvest:
1. Poor quality forage at harvest + Poor silage management = Poor quality silage at feed out.
2. Poor quality forage at harvest + Excellent silage management = Poor quality silage at feed out.
3. High-quality forage at harvest + Poor silage management = Poor quality silage at feed out.
4. High-quality forage at harvest + Excellent silage management = High-quality silage at feed out.
Scenario 4 is the only way. It’s a very simple yet, as Dr. Kung said, we know that all the stars do not always align, perfection is not always possible. But do take charge and do your best.
It’s a long year. Don’t be sorry for most of it.
Think about it this way – the relatively little time you spend harvesting controls what you feed out the other 48, 49 or 50 weeks of the year.
Dr. Kung's other points to ponder:
The primary factor affecting forage quality? Stage of maturity at harvest, because it affects digestibility. Making forage into silage preserves the maximum amount of nutrients, so long as the fermentation is timed correctly (rapid). You should be recovering all your inputs (seed, water, labor, land) with the final product (high-value forage).
What are homolactic, heterolactic, and combination inoculants? In general, homolactic bacteria work in the front end of fermentation and heterolactic work to decrease mold and yeast at feed out. Of course, combinations do both. Through research studies, Dr. Kung dispelled the myth about L. Buchneri 40788 (a heterolactic bacteria) causing cows to turn up their noses to silage.
Should you be using inoculant? If you are just because it is cheap, don’t bother. If you haven’t got your silage management techniques down, don’t bother. But if you are ready, use the best stuff you can find, and ask the people selling it to you to provide repeated research that shows theirs is the best. Look at the package, how many “bugs” do you get for the buck?
How should I apply inoculant? If you’re going to put it on, do it at the chopper, and check application rates often.
Also, do not use hot water to mix inoculant, and follow the instructions on the label for how hot it can be before all those bugs you paid for die. Dead bugs don’t do anything for you no matter how well distributed they are.
The best inoculants are not cheap. Sure, you get one big bill for inoculant all at one time. But take that dollar amount, divide it by the number of cows you feed, and the days in the year, and compare that cost per day to some of your other per cow per day costs. You will be surprised.
If you’re ready, please contact us for information on the Biotal forage treatment products. We’d love to show you how many good bugs are ready to help make this your best forage year ever.