With the need to maximise milk and meat from forage, has the case for using an additive become more compelling?

The answer; of course.

However, the market for silage additives now hosts a wide selection, and with that comes a varying degree of performance. Choosing which one to use can be a headache for many.

When making the choice on which silage additive to use, it should be based on trial data where the trials have been carried out and proven under similar conditions to that in which we experience in Ireland, and focuses on dry matter retention and animal performance.

Fermentation happens naturally when grass is ensiled, however when using a proven additive the efficiency of that process is greatly increased. By using an effective additive, you will improve sugar content and reduce true protein degradation in the silage.

Improving animal performance

Rebecca O’Sullivan, technical business manager, Volac Animal Nutrition, agrees. She believes a key reason some farmers remain sceptical about additive use is a lack of awareness and belief in exactly what they do in the clamp.

“Fermentation is simply a form of pickling,” she said.

“An efficient fermentation occurs when good bacteria convert some of the sugars in the forage into beneficial acid, which in turn preserves the forage against undesirable microbes, such as enterobacteria and clostridia.

“Ecosyl 100 is the only silage additive that can guarantee one million live active bacteria at the time of application.”

So it puts you in greater control of the fermentation process. Without this, you’re leaving fermentation to chance. If silage is fed for half the year, that’s a big risk.

Pointing to Lactobacillus plantarum MTD/1, the bacterium used in Ecosyl, Rebecca says there is now a huge amount of research to pinpoint the logical sequence of benefits that treatment brings – from application right through to animal performance.

Sequential benefits of Lactobacillus plantarum MTD/1 (Ecosyl) treatment based on research

First among these, she says, is improved fermentation efficiency.

“There’s a much faster production of beneficial acidic conditions in the first 24 hours after ensiling with treatment than without. That’s an important timescale for stopping bad bugs getting established,” she confirms.

Following this, Rebecca says, are increases in silage quantity and quality.

“In grass trials, over 95% of the original dry matter ensiled was retained with treatment – 3.7% more than without treatment,” she said.

“From a quality perspective, Ecosyl treatment has also been shown to boost average metabolisable energy (ME) by 0.48 MJ/kg dry matter (DM), to preserve more true protein, and to improve digestibility by an extra 3 D units.

“If you’re looking to make more from forage, these improvements offer a logical explanation behind the improvements in animal performance also seen. Across a range of forages in 15 independent trials, seven in the UK and Ireland, Ecosyl treatment boosted average milk yield by an extra 1.2kg of milk/cow/day.”

By producing high-quality silage, more of the animal’s nutritional requirements can be met from home-produced forage, while supporting a reduction in concentrate use and milk production costs.

Improved dry matter recovery in grass silage following additive treatment (15 trials)

To find out more about the Ecosyl range of proven silage additives, click here.