Animal Nutrition

Silage can be nutritious feed in beef production | Ag / Energy

A meeting focused on “The Basics of Silage Production” is planned for May 18. The meeting will be hosted by Major County Cooperative Extension Service and held at Major County Fairgrounds, located at 808 E. Highland in Fairview, beginning at 8 a.m.

Interest in silage production has been present in the past, but cattle producers in some areas of Oklahoma have renewed interest in silage production. Corn silage has been traditionally fed in the Northern U.S. to feedlot and dairy cattle. Oklahoma producers are viewing this product a bit differently, using small grains and other forage crops such as sorghum or hay-grazer for silage as a complement in winter feeding programs for cows.

Silage can be a highly nutritious, palatable feed for all stages of beef production, but the process is a lot more involved that one might initially believe. Silage is defined as a product formed when freshly harvested forage (60-65{c93c05115eae7b2853c4a44517667f24b04dafe21463d3cb653b86ff5269b0fa} moisture) is stored anaerobically (without oxygen). Forage becomes silage through a fermentation process that reduces the acidity level below the critical control level of pH 5. Good silage will hover around an acidity level of pH 4 and be populated with a microorganism called lactic acid. These bacteria help maintain silage stability and ensure nutrient quality is preserved. The ensiling process can be easily derailed and spoiled by aerobic microorganisms (organisms that require oxygen). These aerobic microorganisms or “bad bugs” in the silage-making process include yeasts, mold, enterobacteria, clostridia and some bacilli bacteria. Silage is a process of forage preservation, but this process will not enhance a forage that is inferior. High-quality forage will make the best silage, but irregularities may hinder that future quality of the silage as a feed product and impact cattle performance.

Cattle producers interested in learning more about improved silage production practices will be in for an excellent educational session. We are fortunate to host Renato Schmidt, a forage products specialist with Lallemand Animal Nutrition, to give a presentation titled “Minimize Losses with Beefed-Up Silage Practices.” Lallemand Animal Nutrition is a global leader in education and development of probiotics and silage inoculants. Using silage as a component in cow rations is an effective way to over-winter cows but some nuances exist. Dana Zook, northwest area extension livestock specialist, will speak about feeding silage to mature beef cows in a presentation titled “Test Don’t Guess! How to Use Silage Efficiently in Cow Herds.” Because of the ensiling process and potential moisture variability, analyzing silage for nutrient content and moisture is essential to efficient feeding. Troy Gosney, Major County ag educator, will cover the details about accurately sampling and submitting silage and hay samples.

When harvested and put up properly, silage can complement any segment of the beef industry. However, silage should not be an afterthought. Production of good silage takes intentional management and attention to detail. It is our hope that this meeting can be informational for both new and experienced silage producers. Local support has sponsored breakfast for the meeting, prepared by the Major County Cattlemen. We ask that those who plan to attend register with the Major County Extension Office at (580) 227-3786. Attendance is limited to the first 50 people who register.

Zook is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service northwest area livestock specialist.