A survey of whole-plant corn silages from Minas Gerais dairy farms
Keywords:aerobic deterioration, ensilaging practices, dairy farming, lactic acid bacteria
Whole-plant corn silage (WPCS) is a commonly used forage for feeding dairy cattle in Brazil. The aim of this study was to evaluate on-farm ensilaging practices and the nutritional value, microbiology and fermentation profiles of WPCS from dairy farms in the south of the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Silages from 54 dairy farms located in nine cities were sampled and a questionnaire was distributed for completion to describe the herd profile and ensilage practices. Herd size ranged from 8 to 1,000 lactating cows, and 52 % of the farms had fewer than 50 cows in lactation. The majority of the farms cultivated hard endosperm texture hybrids (52 %) and used pull-type forage harvesters (87 %). Double-sided plastic was the most used form of silo sealing (56 %) and 28 % used inoculants. Lactic acid bacteria count was greater than 6.01 log CFU g–1 in 60 % of the samples, and the mean populations of enterobacteria and Bacillus spp. were 4.23 and 4.09 log CFU g–1, respectively. Silo size ranged from 100 to 250 m3 in 44 % of the farms, and the silage removal rate was below 15 cm of the face/d in 41 % of cases. Silage dry matter (DM) concentration was 33 ± 3 % of fresh matter, NDF concentration was 57 ± 7 % of the DM, and in vitro NDF digestibility was 35 ± 11 % of the NDF. Silages with high DM concentrations had large particle size, affecting the nutritional value and the fermentative pattern. Improvements in ensiling practices can potentially inhibit the growth of spoilage microorganisms and raise the nutritional value of silages.