Kansas State University Experts Recommend Strategies for Introducing Silage

By Trish Svoboda

When caring for animals, caretakers frequently rely on cues to decipher what factors might be causing an individual to react unexpectedly. In regards to feed resources, professionals at the Kansas State University Beef Cattle Institute, in a recent Cattle Chat, advocate for a gradual transition in feeds, particularly when introducing silage.

“When introducing silage, you are going to have to watch the calves closely to know when you can start increasing the amount in the diet. And with some groups, you may need to move more slowly,” said K-State veterinarian Bob Larson.

Calves may avoid eating silage due to its odor, as noted by beef cattle nutritionist Phillip Lancaster. He explains that silage’s fermented nature gives it a distinct taste and smell unfamiliar to calves. He suggests layering it on top of a preferred feed source to encourage calves to eat it while reaching for their preferred option.

Lancaster advises producers to obtain a sample of the silage for fermentation analysis, ensuring the appropriate balance of acetic acid, lactic acid, and butyric acid. Additionally, he highlights that silage inoculants, when added during silage production, can supply bacteria in sufficient concentrations to achieve optimal fermentation.

“There are microclimates within a silage pit, and so take the samples as you are feeding so that you have a representative sample to help you figure out what is actually causing them to stop eating the silage,” K-State veterinarian Brian Lubbers said.

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