Silage testing and sales in bags and TMR testing with sieves/

Silage testing and sales in bags and TMR testing with sieves

Silage testing is a crucial step in evaluating the nutritional value, safety, and overall quality of silage as feed for livestock. By understanding the results of silage tests, farmers and livestock managers can make informed decisions about ration formulation, storage improvements, and feeding strategies.

Here's an overview of key silage testing values and how to evaluate them:

Dry Matter (DM)

  • Value: Indicates the percentage of the silage that is not water. It is crucial for ration formulation and feed efficiency.

  • Evaluation: High DM can indicate over-dried forage at ensiling, leading to poor compaction and fermentation. Low DM might result in seepage and poor fermentation. Ideal DM levels vary with ensiling method but generally range from 30-40% for bunker or pile silages and 40-50% for baled silage.

Crude Protein (CP)

  • Value: Measures the total nitrogen content, reflecting the protein available for animal nutrition.

  • Evaluation: Protein levels depend on the forage type and maturity at harvest. Higher protein content is generally preferred, especially for high-producing animals. However, excessively high protein can indicate excessive use of nitrogen fertilizer on the crop.

Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF) and Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF)

  • NDF Value: Reflects cell wall contents (hemicellulose, cellulose, and lignin) affecting forage intake.

  • ADF Value: Measures cellulose and lignin, which affect digestibility.

  • Evaluation: Lower NDF and ADF values indicate higher digestibility and potentially higher intake. However, very low NDF can lead to rumen health issues due to insufficient fiber.


  • Value: Indicates the acidity of the silage, affecting fermentation quality and palatability.

  • Evaluation: Ideal pH varies with forage type but typically ranges between 3.8 and 4.2 for well-fermented silage. Higher pH levels may indicate poor fermentation and spoilage risk.

Lactic Acid

  • Value: A primary product of anaerobic fermentation, indicating effective fermentation.

  • Evaluation: Higher lactic acid concentrations generally indicate good fermentation, with typical values ranging from 3-8% of DM. Low lactic acid might suggest inadequate fermentation.

Volatile Fatty Acids (VFAs)

  • Value: Includes acetic, propionic, and butyric acids, produced during fermentation.

  • Evaluation: Acetic acid is common in well-fermented silage, while significant amounts of butyric acid can indicate clostridial fermentation, often associated with wet silage and undesirable.

Ammonia-Nitrogen (NH3-N)

  • Value: Indicates protein breakdown during ensiling.

  • Evaluation: Levels higher than 10% of total nitrogen suggest excessive protein degradation, possibly due to poor fermentation or ensiling conditions.


  • Value: Toxic compounds produced by molds in silage.

  • Evaluation: Any detectable level of mycotoxins can be a concern, affecting animal health and performance. Mycotoxin presence requires careful management and sometimes dilution or disposal of affected silage.

How to Use Silage Testing Results

  • Ration Formulation: Adjust rations based on the nutritional content of the silage to meet the specific needs of your livestock.

  • Identify Management Issues: Use results to pinpoint issues in harvest timing, ensiling process, or storage that could be improved to enhance silage quality.

  • Monitor Changes: Regular testing allows for the monitoring of silage quality over time, helping to identify when silage might be starting to spoil or lose nutritional value.

Silage testing provides essential insights into the quality and nutritional value of silage, guiding feed management decisions to optimize animal health and production. It's recommended to work with a livestock nutritionist or feed specialist to interpret test results and integrate them into a comprehensive feed management plan.