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With so many forage inoculants available, which is the best choice? It’s not the easiest of calls, as each crop presents its own set of challenges. Choosing the right inoculant for the task can be critical to help produce high quality, stable feedstuffs that will fuel production and profitability.
“Using the right inoculant as part of an overall good silage management program will help producers achieve high quality silages,” says Renato Schmidt, Ph.D., Forage Products Specialist, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “In many cases, the key to understanding if a product will work as expected is right on the product label.”
No matter what your silage challenges, Dr. Schmidt identified six key features to look for when selecting an inoculant:
1. Independent, scientific research. The trials should validate the efficacy of the product at the application rate stated on the label and, ideally, be published in a reputable journal or presented at a scientific conference. In addition, make sure the research was performed in the specific crop you are going to ensile.
2. An application rate of at least 100,000 CFU per gram of forage for fermentation enhancement, the minimum level recommended by university researchers. If facing an aerobic stability challenge, or threats from yeasts and molds coming from the field, producers should consider using a product containing high dose rate Lactobacillus buchneri 40788, as reviewed by the FDA.
3. Contains enzymes at guaranteed levels, to help the bacteria drive a rapid, efficient fermentation.
4. Shelf life and storage indications on the product label need to be followed to help ensure products remain live and viable. Inoculants are living organisms, and appropriate packaging and handling helps guard them from heat, moisture and air.
5. The product format is suitable. For example, dry granular application may be less effective, especially in higher dry matter (DM) crops.
6. Packaging that helps maintain the product viability, such as foil laminate pouches with a barrier against moisture and oxygen.
Last, but not least, take into account your silage history and the challenges you face. Generally, high protein crops present a greater fermentation challenge, while high starch crops have greater aerobic stability issues. Be aware of specific challenges due to weather — such as crop DM, drought, hail, etc. — crop maturity and factors such as insect damage and field disease.
There are specific strains that are proven to help drive a fast efficient front-end fermentation and strains that help support aerobic stability. Some products provide an effective combination proven to achieve both these goals, Dr. Schmidt notes.
“It comes back to looking for the independent trials data to validate efficacy,” he recommends. “Think back to challenges you have experienced in previous, years. Then, look for an inoculant that can help you overcome those obstacles. It’s a relatively small commitment in time to read product information and can help ensure that your inoculant investment is returned to you in the form of high quality silages.”