Better, more effective curing and preservation of forage can result in more feed for cows, according to a Utah State University researcher.

Ruminant nutritionist Michael Arambel and his colleagues have studied the preservation of both alfalfa and corn forage with strains of lactobacillus bacteria.Although the quality of the resulting forage is not necessarily higher, as measured by the performance of cows eating it, the curing methods can result in an increase in the amount of feed that can be "fed out," he said.

Arambel presented his research last week at the 83rd annual meeting of the American Dairy Science Association, held in Edmonton, Alberta.

"Different kinds of microbial inoculants are added to alfalfa and corn," he said. "We achieved a faster fermentation rate with the strain we used, which is beneficial. We followed up with animal studies, but did not see added performance, as measured by weight gain or increased milk production."

Bacteria added to wet, ensiled forage secrete enzymes that break some of the plant carbohydrates into simple sugars, he said. The sugars in turn are fermented to acids, which lowers the pH and preserves the material.

Corn silage, which includes the grain, has a higher energy value per unit than alfalfa, Arambel said, but alfalfa contains more protein.

With dry forage, leaves are lost. Dry forage may also be subject to rain damage and leaching of nutrients. Putting up and curing wet forage allows the recovery of more of the leafy portion of the plant, which is a major source of nutrition.

"When it's cured properly, the cows love it," Arambel said.