27 March 1998

Wilt raises silage intake

WILTING grass before ensiling has the potential to lift silage intake in beef cattle, but the intake response to wilting varies according to harvest date and additive.

In a study at the Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland, 20 forages were made over four harvest dates from June to October with five conservation methods used at each harvest.

The five forage types were artificially dried and pelleted grass, wilted grass treated with an inoculant (L plantarum – Ecosyl), unwilted grass treated with inoculant, wilted grass treated with formic acid and unwilted grass treated with formic acid.

Forages were offered to 60 Continental cross beef steers with intakes recorded. The effect of wilting on silage intake varied with harvest date and gave proportional rises in dry matter of 22, 41, 19 and 0.05% The 41% dry matter silage was made in a short 28-hour period in good weather.

Response to wilting varied with the additive. When formic acid was the additive the proportional rise in intake in response to wilting was 16%. When an inoculant was used the increase was 26%.