Choosing the right silage inoculant for Northern Ireland conditions

At this time of year farmers are bombarded with information on silage inoculants. Many products claim to be better than the next one, so how can they actually be compared? With so much variation between years and cuts, it’s very difficult to compare silage inoculants or even treated verses untreated crops.

The first thing to check is if the bacterial strains in the silage inoculant are approved within the EU as a feed additive? This EU registration system has set standard parameters to measure efficacy such as dry matter losses, pH, lactic acid and ammonia plus stability for wholecrop and maize silages.

There is data within the system but it is submitted per stain making it difficult to find all the data and then compare it. However it does summarise if the silage inoculant has been tested and has shown efficacy on easy, moderate and difficult to ensile crops. Some of the inoculants, in particular the ones that only apply 100,000 bacteria per g of grass, failed to show a benefit in moderate and difficult to ensile crops. Provita has carried out analysis of microorganisms on grass.  Results have shown that some grasses in Northern Ireland can have 600,000 to 700,000 microorganisms per gram of grass naturally; this is three to seven times higher than what would be considered normal. This reinforces the need for a silage inoculant, with at least a guaranteed level of 1,000,000 bacteria per gram of grass at point of application to ensure that it dominates fermentation in Northern Ireland conditions.

Many of the trials in the EU registration system used mini silos to compare the differences between treated and untreated silages. As part of their ongoing commitment to clinical research and on-farm testing, Provita decided to also use mini silo tests on Northern Ireland farms in 2014 to test their new product Advance+. This technique means that treated and untreated silage from the same field just a few metres apart can be tested and compared. This means that the same grass, from the same field, from the same cut and the same conditions can be compared equally.

The benefits from the Advance+ treated silage were so obvious, as soon as the lid was opened farmers could smell the extra sugars and feel the drier crops. If these were left open for a few days the difference became even more obvious with the treated silage remaining sweet smelling and the untreated going off. Tests then carried out at various laboratories confirmed these benefits, see table.

One of the statements commonly said about silage inoculants is that they all do a similar job and there’s not much difference between them.  However that’s a bit like saying all cows are the same and that they give you the same level of milk, this is obviously not the case with cows and it has become apparent that it’s not the case with silage inoculants either. When all the above parameters are considered and compared with other bands in terms of EU registration data and on-farm tests Advance+ has to date performed better than all other inoculants.

Provita can arrange to do these tests on any farm wanting to use Advance+ this year so that the benefit of the Advance+ silage inoculant can be clearly demonstrated.