With unprecedented farm costs continuously rising, farmers should consider maximising the feeding value of their silage with an additive, but also, maximising the performance of their silage additives.

While some silage additives are suitable for application following mixing in conventional water volumes, such as 1-2L/t of forage treated, certain additives can be applied in ultra-low volumes (ULV) of water.

ULV is simply explained: The application of 20ml/t will require 100 times less water to handle, fetch and carry.

How does ULV work?

As an example, a standard 2L bottle of Ecosyl contains enough freeze-dried beneficial bacteria to preserve 100t of forage.

With conventional application, the contents of the bottle must be diluted with 100L of water if applying at a volume of 1L/t of forage, or with 200L of water if applying at a volume of 2L/t.

Alternatively, with ULV, the Ecosyl bottle is conveniently mixed with only 2L of water (there is a 2L mark present on the bottle), then poured directly into the specially designed ULV applicator tank. This allows for an application volume of just 20ml/t of forage.

In each case, the same 2L bottle of Ecosyl is enough to treat 100t of forage and the same quantity of beneficial bacteria is being applied per tonne. However, with ULV, much less water is required for application.

Note: Regardless of the method used, the bottle must initially be three-quarters full with water and shaken to allow for a good agitation before the final dilution is carried out.

Here are some examples using a 2L Ecosyl bottle:

Conventional application:

  • Mixed into 100L of water at an application volume rate of 1L/t;
  • Mixed into 200L of water at an application volume rate of 2L/t.

ULV application:

  • Diluted to 2L level with water at an application volume rate of 20ml/t.

Its potential benefits

Utilising ULV application potentially offers direct and indirect benefits, some of which are listen below.

It can help streamlining the entire harvesting operation.

1. Time savings

Transporting and mixing large volumes of water for conventional application can be strenuous on personnel involved on the day of harvest with large harvesters – either for the contractor, the farmer or farm staff.

By making the mixing process much quicker, ULV relieves this time and labour that would have been spent on mixing so that it can be spent on more productive tasks.

Time savings achieved from less strenuous tasks can be significant, particularly if the farm’s silage fields are located at a distance from the farmyard.

Furthermore, there can be other benefits, such as a reduced waiting period for tractor/rake combinations in the field while the additive tank is being refilled.

 2. Less effort

Using ULV is more convenient than transporting large barrels of water, or lifting pumps in and out of barrels.

Furthermore, bottles for ULV application can be mixed anywhere. The additive requirement for the day is easily carried in the harvester or carried out to the field by a tractor returning from the clamp.

Additionally, any Ecosyl that has been mixed for ULV application is also easy to transfer back into its bottle if harvest is interrupted due to rain or breakdowns.

Once in its bottle, Ecosyl mixed for ULV can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 10 days in comparison to a two day tank life for a mixed barrel of the additive stored at ambient temperature.

 3. Potential financial gains

As less time is spent refilling the additive tank, more hectares can be harvested per day. This increases the chance of ensiling the crop within available weather windows in good weather, or in optimum conditions, so the crop is not over-wilted.

Additionally, diverting labour saved from mixing large quantities of water to more productive tasks can also reduce wastage and improve silage quality.

ULV reduces the labour involved with using a silage additive

Furthermore, the ease of mixing an extra additive batch with ULV can reduce any temptation to leave the last remaining loads at top of the clamp untreated if the tank is empty at the end of the day.

Ensuring that the entire clamp is treated is essential as the top of the clamp is most vulnerable to heating and spoilage.

In terms of costs, savings can be made from the reduced purchase or maintenance of water bowsers or lay-on water supplies to silage fields.

Ultimately, having a simpler and less hectic harvest workload could also lead to less stress and reduce the chance of costly mistakes.

Setting up for ULV

ULV technology has been in operation for approximately 20 years. However, while all self-propelled forage harvesters should be suitable for ULV application, certain types of harvesters – such as trailed harvesters – may not be.

Otherwise, once suitable, all that is required is the installation of the ULV applicator, and selection of the appropriate additive.

It is important to note that not every additive can be applied via ULV. It is necessary to check if the additive is suitable for ULV – its suitability should be outlined on it’s information leaflet.

Ecosyl products that are suitable for ULV application are Ecosyl 100 for clamped grass and legumes, and Ecocool for forages at risk of aerobic spoilage (heating), such as maize, wholecrop cereals, and higher dry matter grass silage.

The Ecosyler ULV applicator has been engineered for the precise delivery of the product. It achieves an even distribution by atomising the ULV liquid in the forage harvester’s airflow.

Why aren’t all silage additives suitable for ULV application?

As ULV application is measured in ml of water/t, it is crucial that the correct quantity of silage additive is mixed to ensure beneficial bacteria can remain viable and in suspension in such low volumes of water without settling out.

Alternatively, if the mix is incorrect, the beneficial bacteria will settle to the bottom of the tank and the application will be uneven and concentrated at the end.

An even application of the product is necessary across the forage to ensure an even fermentation level across the entire clamp. It is necessary to note, that all silage additives have not been formulated to a similar standard so caution must be taken when mixing. 

There has been extensive research carried out into the MTD/1 bacteria present in Ecosyl. Trials have shown that there has been no difference in performance when it is applied using ULV or conventional application.

ULV maintained an accurate, even application of the required number of beneficial bacteria per gram of forage.

In conclusion, there was no significant difference in the fermentation process with both application methods producing significantly better silage than the untreated clamp, with higher metabolizable energy (ME) and true protein, and reduced dry matter losses in the treated clamps.

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