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The combined effect of molasses and formic acid on quality of red-clover silage


, : The combined effect of molasses and formic acid on quality of red-clover silage. Swedish Journal of Agricultural Research 26(1): 31-41

Ecological farmers desire to grow red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) and possibly use it for silage. Red clover dominated herbage may be difficult to ensile because of low sugar concentration and relatively high buffering capacity, however. The aim of the present investigation was to study the combined effects of molasses and formic acid on quality, microbial activity, and rate and extent of digestion in red clover silage. Three levels of molasses, 0, 40, or 100 litre ton-1 fresh matter (FM) and two levels of formic acid, 0 or 5 litre ton-1 FM were studied in a factorial combination by ensiling red clover in 260 litre silos for 60 days. Density and concentration of dry matter (DM), digestibility, ash and water soluble carbohydrates (WSC) increased with increasing levels of molasses (p lt 0.001). Crude protein (CP) decreased with increased levels of molasses (p lt 0.003). Effects from application of formic acid were similar, but less pronounced compared with application of molasses. All silages were well fermented with or without silage additives. Concentration of lactic acid and acetic acid decreased at increasing levels of molasses when no formic acid was applied (p lt 0.006). Concentrations of lactic acid and acetic acid were lower and increased at increasing levels of molasses when formic acid was applied. Thus, increasing levels of molasses reduced silage fermentation the same as application of formic acid, but to a lower extent. DM-losses during ensilage were reduced by formic acid only. Treatment with molasses had no effect on losses of effluent, but increased DM-losses. Ethanol is an indicator of yeasts growth and influx of air into the silage. Concentrations of ethanol decreased with increased rates of molasses (p lt 0.0001). Therefore, molasses reduced the air from entering the silage. Initial rate and extent of digestion was higher for silage treated with 100 l of molasses with formic acid or without formic acid. Beyond 4 h of digestion, rate of digestion was similar for all silages, but extent of digestion remained the highest for silage with 100 l of molasses. It is concluded that applying molasses and formic acid either separately or in a mixture to red clover improved silage fermentation. A combination is preferred to avoid an over-fermentated silage. Pure red clover was suitable for silage with or without a silage additive.

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