Why use silage additive? From Dr. MB Salawu

I chose this topic because it is a question I get asked by most farmers. With so many products to choose from and with most not doing what they claim they will do, I am not surprised by farmers reluctance to use them.

Ruminant Specialist (Dr. MB Salawu) is highly experienced and a hands-on professional with very strong understanding of ruminant’s production, nutrition and fertility management. He has previous experience of research/ teaching (in UK and USA), consultancy (in UK) and over 3 years of direct on-farm work in the UK.

He has an excellent track record and he is a well-known face in UK farming community, regularly invited as guest speakers in farmers meetings and to contribute to farmer’s journals. He has also spoken at several international conferences all over the world and has numerous publications in peered review journals and farming press.

We asked Dr MB Salawu to provide us with some insights in the use of silage additives and he was kind enough to enlighten us with the following:

It is almost impossible to make good quality silage without some form of intervention. The consequences of bad weather at harvest are for example unavoidable. However, measures should be taken to prevent avoidable consequences like mycotoxins, loss of nutrients, fermentation by bad bugs, aerobic instability etc…

Why use silage additive?  

I chose this topic because it is a question I get asked by most farmers. With so many products to choose from and with most not doing what they claim they will do, I am not surprised by farmers reluctance to use them. This is however a problem that is peculiar to UK because in mainland Europe and in big corporate farms around the world silage additives are generally accepted as a must to use.  

When I therefore get asked the question of, why silage additive? I start my response by asking the farmer 2 questions:  

  1. If they know why different forages are being ensiled and  
  2. If they understood the complex processes that takes place during ensiling.  

Of course, every farmer knows why they are ensiling their forage. However, only very few know the processes that takes place during the different stages of ensilage. And, most if not all of those that understood these processes, would be using one form of silage additive or the other. I will throw more light on why forages are ensiled and the process of ensiling in future posts.  

To therefore appreciate why we use silage additives, we need to know why we are doing it and the processes of ensilage. As an independent ruminant specialist with over 20 years of experience working with farmers in UK, I generally ask farmers to use silage additive. Part of my reason for this is because I want them to get the best out of their homegrown feeds. Silage is also the cheapest feed and the only feed that most farmers have full control over. So, why risk leaving the process of fermentation or ensilage to chance?  

You are using silage additive because if you use the right one, they do work. A good silage additive can make what could have turned out as bad silage into an average silage. An average silage into a good silage. A good silage into an incredibly good silage and finally, an incredibly good silage into an excellent silage. So, farmers that consistently make good silage without an additive would have made an incredibly good or what could be an excellent silage if they use the right type of silage additive.  

I have also had silage additive been labelled as an insurance. I personally do not completely agree with that qualification partly because it could be seen, like most insurance, a waste of money. With the right type of silage additive, there is always a return on investment. These returns have been quantified monetarily by many promoters of silage additives to be between 1: 4 and 1:7. Factors like the weather, contamination with soil/ muck, contractor, delayed harvest etc, some of which are beyond the farmers control can make it almost impossible to get it right. For this reason, my advice to farmers is to use the right type of silage additive.  

The right type of silage additive can be inoculant or acid or salt preservatives. What they must all have to qualify them as being right is their capacity to improve the feeding value and most importantly, improve aerobic stability during feedout.  If you wish to find out more about Ruminant nutrition please visit:


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