Silage inoculants: are they profitable? A case study of wholeplant corn silage

Research on the topic “Profitability in the use of silage inoculants” in scientific literature shows that many authors (e.g. Vanzant, 2008; Raue, 2006) have already tried to use methods for calculating the economical impact of the use of silage inoculants. The following calculations are based on the improvement of the energy contents in silages compared with non-treated silages.

In Figure 1 the possible profit obtained with different energy contents compared with non treated silages is shown. The profit is calculated from a higher production of milk, the savings in concentrate and the sum of both(1). The functions become positive (profitability) when the difference between the energy content in treated silage and non-treated silage exceeds around 0.1 MJ/ kg DM. It is also noticeable that an energy loss for a lower energy content than this value (0.1 MJ/ kg DM) would cause financial losses (at the prices for the calculation) of about 3.80 – 5.20 €/ ton silage when the energy content decrease from 0.0 to - 0.1 MJ/ kg DM.

Figure 1: Profitability in the use of silage inoculants according to the variation in energy content

In Figure 2 an analysis taking into account variations in milk or concentrate prices was made. The analysis was conducted only for a cost of 1.75 €/ ton treated silage.

Figure 2: Profit taking into account increasing milk and concentrate price (calculated for a cost of the treatment of 1.75 €/ ton silage)

As a logical consequence of the increasing prices, the profitability in the use of silage inoculants increases. When the milk prices ascend from 0.30 to 0.45 €/ liter milk, the increase in the profit caused by the milk increase ranges from 2.27 to 4.15 €/ton. An increase in the concentrate price per ton (from 175 up to 375 €/ per ton corresponding to 17.5 to 3.75 ¢/ kg) would improve the profitability per ton from 1.14 to 4.15 €. This means, the higher the milk quality (which is possible to reach feeding good silage) and the higher the price of the concentrate (which is increasing markedly nowadays), the better the profitability in the use of silage inoculants. An important aspect which should be remarked is that the calculations were carried out for 1.75 €/ treated ton, which is relatively high. Lower costs per treated ton of silage would improve these results even more. The following Figure (Figure 3) shows what would happen if the costs per treated ton were to vary. The functions are calculated taking into account the sum of the milk production increase and the savings in concentrate. The differences are always related to silage without treatment or treated with silage inoculants which do not improve the energy content.

Figure 3: Sensitivity analysis with increasing costs per treated ton of silage

It is shown that an energy increase in the silage higher than 0.04 MJ/ kg DM would be already profitable for the producer taking into account the losses/ gains of energy. If the cost per treated ton increases to 2.00 €, the profitability point would be reached only after 0.16 MJ/ kg DM. No changes in the energy content (0.00 MJ/ kg DM) or a decrease of 0.10 MJ/ kg DM would place the economical losses in about 1.00 to 4.00 € and 4.5 to 6.5 € per ton for a cost of treatment of 0.50 and 2.00 €/ treated ton.

A case study of whole-plant corn silage

On the basis of knowledge about the factors influencing the silage process and aerobic stability, and as a result of long term research and practical experiences, BIOMIN has developed a product which has recently been taken into account more and more by producers. Its name is Biomin® BioStabil Mays; a unique formula containing homo- as well as heterofermentative bacteria for the ensiling of whole-plant corn, wet corn grains and CCM as well as crops like sorghum forage. Three main actions support the success of the product in farms:

* better fermentation,
* longer aerobic stability and
* higher energy recovery

The laboratory results were corroborated in field trials. An example of the nutrient and energy content using Biomin® BioStabil Mays is shown in the following experiment conducted in Hungary. The treatments were a negative control(without silage additive), a positive control (a competitor product available on the market in the dosage recommended by the producers) and a Biomin® BioStabil Mays treatment. Sub samples of each lot were taken and thoroughly mixed in order to obtain a representative sample (1 kg) of the original material, which was immediately sent to the laboratory. At least six weeks after ensiling, two representative samples, one from each treatment, as a mix of different sub samples, were sent to the laboratory in order to determinate the nutrient variation and the main silage quality parameters. Figure 4 shows the nutrient and energy content of whole corn crop silages in the field trial.

Figure 4: Nutrient and energy content of whole corn crop silages treated with different silage additives

In spite of a slightly lower crude protein content in the Biomin® BioStabil Mays treatment compared with the negative and the positive control, the energy content of the silage with the tested product was higher compared with the negative control (+0.2 MJ/ kg DM) and positive control (+0.1 MJ/ kg DM). A calculation based on the real values for the three treatments shows (Table 1) an economical advantage for the silage inoculants Biomin® BioStabil Mays. The values of the non treated silage were taken as reference and therefore there is no profit or loss (no investment, no profit). The use of the silage inoculants in the negative control caused an increase of 0.1 MJ/ kg DM (Figure 4) however this energy increase was not enough to cover the investment in the product, neither taking into account the milk production increase (-0.05 €/ ton) nor the saving in concentrate (-0.21 €/ ton). The energy increase (0.2 MJ/ kg DM) in the silage treated with Biomin® BioStabil Mays made a profit of 2.06 and 1.70 €/ ton for milk production increase and saving in concentrate respectively. It would mean a Return on Investment of 1.65 to 3.01 depending on the parameters that will be taken into account.

Table 1: Economical calculation(2) based on the energy recovery for silages treated or not with silage inoculants (100 tons) in relation to the negative control


Additives may aid the preservation of forage, but they cannot compensate for poor ensiling practices. Use of an additive should always be associated with good management practices. Ensile always at the correct maturity stage, moisture content and particle length, fill the silo quickly and seal it properly. Following these management practices will improve ensiling and increase the effectiveness of an additive.

The effectiveness of the use of a silage inoculant is dependent on the market situation, prices, conditions in the farm, etc. The calculations are an orientation in order to help producers in the decision to use silage inoculants, or in order to estimate the potential profit. The parameter to be taken into account is always the Return on Investment.

The product Biomin® BioStabil Mays proved in laboratory as well as in field trials its ability to support the ensiling process in corn and corn related products. The main action of the product is performed in two different ways: the preservation of energy in the silage and the improvement of the aerobic stability due to the higher amount of acetic acid.


by Yunior Acosta Aragón, Technical Manager for Preservatives - BIOMIN GmbH

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