Influences on fresh and high quality silage

When dinner is served and it smells bad, you will consider twice before eating and start looking for alternatives. Cows are no different; they will look, smell and single out the best ration to feed themselves. In this article we will discuss what to keep in mind during the harvesting and feeding process.

Management, Feeding

Taste & odor

A cow’s tongue has around 25,000 taste buds. Via small openings in the tongue epithelium, called taste pores, parts of the food dissolved in saliva come into contact with taste receptors. The cow can distinguish salt, sweet, acid and bitter. The level of sugar, butyric acid, ammonia and molds are therefore important as they, amongst others, determine the taste of the feed.

Figure 1 -  the cow’s tongue and taste pores


A high sugar content in grass silage does not only have a high nutritional value but also commands a high level of taste for the cow. The moment of cutting and drying is therefore of paramount importance, since the sugar content will decline during the respiration phase. Looking at figure 2, we can establish that the optimum moment lies between 16.00 and 21.00 hrs. 
Figure 2  -  amount of sugar at the moment of cutting during the day

Butyric acids

Butyric acids occur in the ground and can be transported from the ground to the silage pit through the fodder. In order to prevent the growth of butyric acids in the silage pit, it is important to compress the fodder during the ensiling process. The less air, the less chance of butyric acids. It is of great importance that the pit be closed properly using foil, a robust protection layer and sand (bags). If necessary, inoculants are available to stabilize the silage pit. Also during feeding in the (winter) season, the pit should be closed properly.

Ammonia & Molds

Too high a concentration of ammonia, arising during the ensiling process, provides the feed with a bad smell and taste, loss of dry matter, a degradation of proteins as well as fewer lactic acids. In addition, molds cause a bad taste and smell, mycotoxins and increased heat in the silage pit. 

Prevent this as much as possible through: 
- optimum dry matter content and chopping length (4-7cm) during harvesting
- proper compaction in the silage pit
- sufficient feed speed (height of silage pit to be taken into account)
- straight cuts, a clean bunk and closing the pit after feeding.

So, to ensure the production of high-quality silage: prevent contamination during the ensiling process, be aware of the moment of cutting / tedding and compress and close the silage pit properly. Better safe than sorry!