Silage soil contamination warning

Chris Nelson, left, Sales Manager with JMK Quads, Loughbrickland and Stephen Lavery, Genus ABS with the Suzuki Ozark 250, the first prize in the free draw for purchasers of Powerstart silage inoculant. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Chris Nelson, left, Sales Manager with JMK Quads, Loughbrickland and Stephen Lavery, Genus ABS with the Suzuki Ozark 250, the first prize in the free draw for purchasers of Powerstart silage inoculant. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

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Soil contamination of grass due to ensiling in wet weather conditions is difficult to avoid but farmers should be aware of the dangers of this contamination according to Stephen Lavery Genus ABS.

Stephen points out that the wet conditions plus the soil contamination will not only mean a poorer quality silage which will need more supplementation with expensive concentrates but it also poses the risk of listeria and abortions. Thus farmers need to take steps to avoid soil contamination and choose a silage additive that will be effective in wet weather conditions in order to avoid poor fermentation where the pH is not acidic enough.

Regarding soil contamination Stephen quotes a comment from Ben Brearley, a veterinary surgeon from the Livestock Partnership in West Sussex who informed him that he has seen more than a dozen cases of listeria in suckler cows and ewes at lambing due to listeria contaminated silage last winter. Three of the cases were fatal. 

Listeria is a bacteria that lives in the soil and can be ingested by livestock if forages become contaminated with soil. If it is not spotted early enough it can be fatal, but it also causes abortion.

Dr. Davies of Silage Solutions states that there are a number of practical steps that farmers can take to avoid the risks of soil contamination and poor fermentation during wet weather conditions.

During harvesting the cutting head should be altered depending on the ground conditions. For new leys and legumes he suggests adjusting the cutting height to three to four inches, but two inches is sufficient for permanent pastures. If you have a new reseed generally you will need to cut higher because the swards are less dense.

Listeria grow with a little bit of oxygen so good compaction and sealing are critical. The clamp should be rolled in maximum depths of 15cm and must be sealed quickly.

A small amount of oxygen will keep listeria alive. Many silage clamps have 40% of silage within 1m of the top or side – a significant amount. These are the areas that are more vulnerable to oxygen getting in. Once sealed, a silage clamp should blow up. This means carbon dioxide is being released and it will inhibit listeria growth.

Dr Davies added: “You want quick fermentation to bring the pH down rapidly. This will not only prevent listeria from growing but will also preserve the nutrients in the grass. It will be very important this year to choose a silage additive that will be efficient in wet weather conditions.

He pointed out that Powerstart silage additive contains a unique strain of Lactobacillus which means it is able to make better use of all the sugars available in grass, which results in a more rapid fermentation with two significant consequences for the nutritional value of the silage. The good news is that it is also effective in unfavourable weather conditions.

“The first consequence is that by making use of all the sugars in grass, less of the available sugar is used during the fermentation which means that there is more sugar in the resultant silage and available to the cow. The second is that by accelerating the rate of fermentation the protein in the grass is preserved more effectively with a higher proportion of true protein and fewer free amino acids, something that will not show up on a silage analysis.”

Stephen Lavery added: “We need to add a little bit of good news after all these warnings, Genus ABS is rewarding customers with a free entry into a draw for a Suzuki Ozark 250 Quad Bike for every 100 tonne of inoculant purchased. This bike has been sponsored by JMK Quads, Loughbrickland who are authorized dealers for Suzuki, Kawasaki and Honda quads.

For further details contact Stephen Lavery on 077 6805 8450 or your local Genus ABS representative.