It was a long, hot summer in rural Greenville, OH. But first-cut alfalfa haylage at Todd Schmitmeyer's 90-cow dairy farm has kept its cool this year.

“The haylage hasn't come out of the silo feeling warm, nor has it heated up in the feedbunk like it did in previous years,” Schmitmeyer says. “And it looks and smells really good.”

What's his secret? A silage inoculant called Lactobacillus buchneri.

A natural-occurring heterolactic bacteria, L. buchneri makes lactic acid and other end products from sugars during fermentation. Under anaerobic conditions, L. buchneri also has the unique ability to convert some lactic acid to acetic acid, which is highly effective in improving aerobic stability of silages.

“The end result is inhibition of yeasts and molds when ensiled feed is exposed to air,” says Limin Kung, a University of Delaware dairy scientist.

In contrast, traditional silage additives contain homolactic bacteria, which make only lactic acid and do so during the front end of ensiling. That process improves fermentation but doesn't consistently improve aerobic stability.

Schmitmeyer normally fills three 20 × 80' concrete silos each year, one with haylage and two with corn silage. The past two years, while using a homolactic acid bacteria, he found mold spots in all his ensiled feed, then overheating, spoilage and waste in the bunk.

“I'm extremely satisfied with how L. buchneri has eliminated mold and spoilage, and I'll definitely continue to use it,” Schmitmeyer says. He also inoculated his fall 2002 corn silage with the bacteria, which was approved for sale in the U.S. last fall.

Producers like Schmitmeyer who are having problems with spoiled silage may benefit from L. buchneri, Kung says.

“If the weather is exceptionally wet or dry, if forages will be fed during hot weather, or if a silo has a large exposed surface, L. buchneri is a good tool to implement at the time of ensiling,” he says.

Silage that will be moved from one silo structure to another and/or silage exposed to air for several days before feeding, should also be considered for treatment at the time of ensiling, Kung adds.

When properly managed, L. buchneri has been shown to improve the aerobic stability of a variety of crops, including corn, alfalfa, wheat, barley and ryegrass silages, as well as high-moisture corn.

Although some people question the palatability of silages high in acetic acid from treatment with this bacteria, university research has shown that cows readily consume it, and eat similar amounts of treated and untreated silage, Kung emphasizes.

While an inoculant containing homolactic acid bacteria generally costs about 50¢ to $1 per treated ton of crop, products with L. buchneri run from $1.50 to $2 per treated ton.

“But L. buchneri should not be compared with normal homolactic acid inoculants because the benefits are different,” Kung says. “If you want to compare apples to apples, compare the cost and effect of L. buchneri with 3-4 lbs of a buffered propionic acid product.

“Lactobacillus buchneri has been one of the most exciting developments in the area of silage additives in my 25-plus years of research,” Kung adds. “In the future, products that combine L. buchneri with homolactic acid bacteria will improve both fermentation and aerobic stability.”

Two L. buchneri products currently are available: Biotal Buchneri 40788 from Lallemand Animal Nutrition (800-541-5598 or www.lallemand.com), and Pioneer's Buchneri 11A44 (800-247-6803 or www.pioneer.com).