Better Fermentation

Fermentation is the process of using anaerobic biology and time to break down complex carbohydrates prior to consumption. Good fermentation "predigests" the forage, reducing complex structures to simpler and readily digestible compounds, and eliminating any pathogens that might be present.  The end result is two-fold: greater amounts of both nutrients and energy when the animals eat it, and the benefits of the good probiotic bacteria that were used in the fermentation. Easier compounds to digest, and better biology for the digestion.

Bio Minerals Technologies has been fermenting forages for over ten years, with great success. We can help improve the biological conditions in your silage pits for better, sweeter silage, and less odor. We can teach you how to ferment high-moisture forage in bales for a product your animals will love (we've heard of cows climbing onto the trailer to get at it). We can even show you how to salvage rain-damaged forage, eliminating pathogens and releasing the nutrition in otherwise useless cuttings.

Bio Minerals Technologies fermentation products include:

  • Natural fermentation cultures
  • Micronized trace minerals for enhanced fermentation and nutrition

Call Bio Minerals Technologies today at 435-753-2086 and let us help you start or improve your fermentation results!

Fermented Forage - Guidelines and How-To

Fermenting forages is a great way to increase nutrition for your livestock. Bio Minerals Technologies has a Probiotic Fermentation Culture that creates exceptional forage in many forms. We specialize in fermenting high-moisture forages for maximum animal nutrition. We have many farmers who use our products and methods to successfully ferment high-moisture, baled alfalfa and other forage without excessive heating. The cattle love the fermented forages and they will eat fermented before they eat anything else.

General Guidelines

There are some critical details you should adhere to when baling high-moisture forages. You can ferment alfalfa, grass, barley, oats, or wheat straw, even corn stalks. You can ferment them in round or square bales as well as in pits or bags. General Fermentation Culture application rates are shown in the table below. Specific fermentation process details are given in the sections following the table.

Fermentation Culture Application Rates

  Moisture Range Purpose Minimum Maximum
Clean, low-moisture forage (traditional) 12-18% Inoculation 1/2 gallon/ton 1 gallon/ton
Clean, high-moisture forage 25-65% Fermentation 1/2 gallon/ton 1 gallon/ton
Extremely high-moisture forage 65-85% Fermentation/
Salvage
1 gallon/ton 1.5 gallon/ton
Moldy or spoiled high-moisture forage 45-85% Fermentation/
Salvage
1 gallon/ton 2 gallon/ton
Wheat (grain) straw - wet

25-65% Fermentation 1 gallon/ton
+ 8 oz molasses
1.5 gallon/ton
+ 12 oz molasses

Note: Fermenting bales and forages will initially heat up as high as 170 degrees. Square bales are more likely to reach higher internal temperatures than round bales because they are more tightly compacted and have a larger anaerobic zone where the microbes are most active. After baling and before stacking in full stacks, monitor bale temperatures carefully. Once the internal temperatures have peaked and dropped down to the long-term 80-105 degree fermentation range, the bales can be stacked and covered in their final destination.

For a specific example, read about a high-moisture salvage fermentation we did in Idaho a few years ago.

To discuss implementation within your operations, call us directly at 435-753-2086.

Low Moisture Forages

Low-moisture forages between 12-18% are the standard for most forage operations. Apply the fermentation/probiotic culture as an innoculant at baling to protect against mold and other pathogens. Bale your forage at 18% in order to retain more leaves and plant nutrition (alfalfa will keep up to 25% more leaves at 18% instead of 12%). Retaining the leaves will improve the nutritional value of the forage (greater Relative Feed Value or RFV).

At these low moisture levels, the bales will not ferment, but the application of our fermentation / probiotic anaerobic microorganisms will help prevent the growth of mold producing pathogens. The bales will experience very little heating (due to the presence of the beneficial microbes). Within a few weeks, the moisture levels will drop naturally. Even though the bales are not fermented, cattle and livestock can detect the presence of the probiotic microorganisms and they will select this above other non-treated forage. The probiotic microbes create a significant benefit to the cattle who consume the forage, improving their digestion and feed conversion and strengthening their immune system.

High Moisture Forages

A moisture range between 25% to 65% is where you’ll see the best fermentaion; less at 25% and much more at 65%. The microbes will work much better with the higher moisture content. The ideal moisture range for square bales seems closer to 35% to maintain good bale structure through the fermentation process. Bales at higher moisture levels, 45 to 65%, get soft and do not stack as well.

In these fermented bales you will see:

  • Initial temperatures up to 170 degrees as the beneficial microbes gain control of the environment and multiply and start breaking down the forage
  • Caramelizing and darkening of the intererior forage
  • In round bales, you may see beneficial yeasts growing on the outer edge of the caramelized layer. This is Not mold.

Round bales show two types of fermentation zones; the center core where there is no oxygen will caramelize and break down much like the most compacted square bales. The outer layer will show whitish and grayish yeast accumulations. This is Not mold. These are beneficial yeasts and are not harmful to the livestock. Livestock will readily eat this outer part of the bale as aggressively as the inner part of the caramelized bale. Cattle will not eat moldy hay, they can tell the difference.

The beneficial yeasts grow at the transition boundary where the anaerobic zone becomes aerobic. About one half of our fermentation microbes are facultative, meaning they can function in both anaerobic and aerobic environments. As these microbes continue to break down the forage in the aerobic environment, the result is the generation of the beneficial yeasts. Cattle will eat the yeast layer as aggressively as they eat the caramelized layers.

Due to their looser structure, the best way to ferment round bales is to wrap them. This will retain the moisture and maintain a better fermentation environment for the microbes. Round bales generally do not heat up as much as square bales, again, due to the looser structure. Fermentation will still occur (especially if they are wrapped securely).

Note: Wrapped bales will maintain their anaerobic state and there will not be any beneficial yeast layers.

Late fall forages that will not have adequate drying time can be cut, baled at higher moisture levels and fermented and preserved as a superior forage.

Extremely High Moisture Forages

This would be forages from 65% to 85% moisture range. Our experience is we can bale this material up and save it from spoilage but it doesn’t make the best fermented forages. In the past these have been more ‘salvage’ type operations to save the forage from molding and spoiling to a point it is unusable.

The best rate for these conditions would be at least 1 gallon of fermentation culture per ton of forage. Square bales and round bales will be more difficult to handle and stack due to their increased water weight. In most cases we have been able to save the forage.

Spoiled/Moldy High Moisture Forages

Often forages will get rained on, sometimes multiple times, turned and turned again, and become difficult to dry out and eventually become moldy. Using a MINIMUM of 1 gallon to 1.5 gallons (one and a half gallons) even as high as 2 gallons the forage can be saved. The blend of biology in the fermentation culture will kill the pathogenic microbes and digest and eliminate their toxic metabolites of Zearalenone, Aflotoxins B1, B2, G1, G2.

Heat Ranges of Forages

Bales can heat up during fermentation depending on the type of forage and level of moisture in the forages. The more moisture you can retain in the baled forage, the longer and better fermentation results you will get. This is why wrapping and tarping the fermenting forage is essential.

Grass forages tend to lose moisture quickly after cutting and the bales tend to retain less moisture after baling. These forages tend to ferment less after baling. Optimally you want to wrap these grass forages to prevent moisture loss and extend fermentation and pre-digestion.

Alfalfa holds stem and leaf moisture well. It’s an ideal forage for fermenting, best wrapped, covered or tarped.

When bales/forages heat up during the fermentation process, this is from the reproduction of the microorganisms inside the bale from both beneficial microbes we apply and naturally occurring microbes from the environment that were on the forage when it was cut. All these types and groups of microbes are going to reproduce and grow, thus we get elevated temperatures. Temperatures can reach as high as 170 degrees within several days after baling. What is occurring is biological warfare inside the bale. Each type of biology (good or bad) is trying to reproduce and take over and control the environment inside the bale. The fermentation culture is designed to kill off the pathogenic populations of biology inside the bale and thus control the heat, fermentation and extended breakdown and pre-digestion of the bale’s inner forages. Once the other biology groups are eliminated the bale temperatures will begin to drop back into normal fermentation ranges of 80 to 110 degrees (depending on forage type) for an extended period of time. Once the temperatures drop, move the bales into a stack, hay barn or covered area. DO NOT stack high heating bales, let the temperatures drop before storing them in a more permanent location.

This is why it is very important to use ENOUGH fermentation culture so you get enough beneficial microbes on the forage materials to take over and remove those other non-fermenting, pathogenic and toxic/flammable gas producing microbes from the forage materials. Microbes that produce methane are everywhere, including inside wet forages; eliminating them will prevent fires. THERE ARE NO FLAMABLE GAS PRODUCING MICROBES IN THE FERMENTATION CULTURE.

IMPORTANT: If you miss forage or do not get enough fermentation culture on the forage then you might not be able to overtake / control the other populations of microbes that can be on the forage. This could result in molding, overheating and even fires.

Wheat Straw Fermentation

Wheat straw fibers, which are made up of hemi-cellulose, cellulose and lignin, are generally used as bedding and or ‘fillers’ in livestock rations. The carbon chains of the straw fibers are very long chains and non-digestible. Yet these long carbon chains hold incredible amounts of glucose (a short chain sugar) that the animal uses to create energy. Fermenting up wet wheat straw and wrapping the bales or covering them in stacks with tarps will allow the fermentation and pre-digestion required to convert these long chain polysaccharides into more absorbable short carbon chain sugars, so the livestock can utilize the glucose as energy instead of passing it through undigested. Most livestock will eat fermented straw at nearly equal rates to hay or alfalfa. Animals prefer fermented forages to all other forages.

Saving Winter Calves

Fermented forages will save a lot of winter-born calves from dying. These beneficial microbes during fermentation produce a wide range of probiotic substances and as baby calves begin to nibble on the fermented forages, these beneficial microbes inoculate the rumen and prevent other environmental pathogens such as E Coil, Salmonella, Clostridium Botulinum and others to get established in the calves rumen and make them sick. The probiotics substances boost the immune system to further prevent disease and increase health and growth.

Protecting Fermented Forages

Fermented forages are a very valuable resource. When you go to the extra work of preserving and fermenting your forages be sure to take proper care of it. Shelter, cover or wrapping the bales will keep fall rains and winter snow off the bales and prevent the cold and water-logged conditions that can allow forage materials to spoil. Protecting your forages from the elements will give you the best results.

High Moisture Forage Fermentation and Microbial Metabolites

 We all know the scenario ...the hay is cut and is curing in the fields. We're supposed to have a week of good weather, but in comes a thunderstorm and soaks the crop. It may not be ruined, but it is certainly damaged and the quality significantly degraded. We can solve that problem by teaching you how to bale your forage while it is wet, introducing the right microbes to jumpstart a beneficial fermentation, without worries of heat, combustion, or nutrient loss. In fact, our fermented forage is higher in available nutrients that any other alternative, and the animals love it!

Fermentation and Predigestion

The Fermenation and Predigestion of High Moisture Forages

Complex Plant Structures

Many forage plants contain large amounts of partial or non-digestible carbohydrate fiber complexes in the form of hemi-cellulose, cellulose, and lignin. These plant structures can make up 80 percent or more of a plant’s total biomass. The normal rumen cycle is too short to break these structures down, thus the potential energy and nutrition are lost to the animal, passing through in the manure. However, if you can break these complex structures down and make them available to the animal, they hold vast reserves of potential energy and nutrition. There are numerous methods of fermenting and predigesting forages. Some forage is fermented in large pits as silage or haylage, while some is fermented in bags. Most operations rely on the natural microbes to ferment their forage. The problem with this method is that there are too many toxins that try to take over. This often results in mold, spoilage, and more toxins. Bio Minerals Technologies has a better way.

Reduction of Fibers - Improved Nutrient Uptake

High moisture fermentation, using the appropriate beneficial anaerobic microorganisms, provides the tools and time required to predigest these complex plant structures, breaking them apart into smaller units that can be digested by the animals. Hemi-cellulose, cellulose, and lignin are comprised of complex chains of glucose molecules. Glucose is a carbohydrate, and is the most important simple sugar in animal and human metabolism.

Glucose is one of the primary molecules which serves as an energy source for plants and animals. It is a monosaccharide containing 6 carbons, 12 hydrogens, and 6 oxygens and is readily usable in cellular respiration. Hemi-cellulose structures can contain from 500 to 3,000 glucose units, cellulose structures are comprised of 7,000 to 15,000 glucose units, and lignin structures contain more than 15,000 glucose units! That is a lot of energy that passes through the animal, untouched and unused.

These complex structures need much more time to be dismantled into smaller units that can be available to the organism consuming them. During high-moisture fermentation, the microbes dismantle these complex glucose chains and make much more of this energy available to the animals. Extended fermentation prior to animal digestion is the key to converting complex carbohydrates into usable energy and nutrition.

Microbial Metabolites

Forages are evaluated on a dry matter basis for proteins, digestible fibers – carbohydrates, and mineral ratios. Values such as RFV (Relative Feed Value), RFQ (Relative Feed Quality) or TDN (Total Digestible Nutrients) are assigned to the forage. However, when you employ the correct blends of beneficial anaerobic microorganisms with a complete spectrum of minerals, the microorganisms begin the decomposition and reconstruction of the forage materials into far superior nutrient compounds which are more readily absorbed by the animal.

Through the fermentation and predigestion processes the microbes actually produce additional compounds that were not in the original plant. They produce:

  • vitamins (both fat and water soluble)
  • organic acids
    • volatile fatty acids- acetic acid, butyric acid and propionic acid 
    • essential fatty acids
    • linoleic or Omega 6 which converts to arachidonic acid –AA
    • linolenic or Omega 3 which converts to eicosapentaenoic acid - EPA
  • proteins and amino acids
  • enzymes (both digestive and metabolic)
  • growth stimulators
  • hormones
  • mineral compounds
  • antioxidants
  • antibiotics
  • chemotherapeutics 

In addition to the increased nutrient uptake and the formulation of new nutrients not formerly found in the forages, the beneficial microorganisms also produce targeted antibiotics that control and eliminate pathogenic organisms. They also produce other metabolic compounds in the fermenting forages and these benefits continue on into the rumen or digestive system, offering a host of health and immune boosting benefits to the animal.

Conclusion

Biological fermentation (extended predigestion) results in reduced carbohydrate structures for increased feed conversion and improved nutrient uptake to the animal. Superior forms of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals are produced by the beneficial microorganism. The superior nutrients improve the animal growth and production, and the secondary compounds provide natural pathogen and disease control, eliminating the need for toxic and harmful commercial antibiotics.

Cattle prefer fermented forages

In the fall of 2014, Bio Minerals Technologies started working with a rancher in Ruby Valley, NV. We had him apply the fermentation culture microbes to some of his forage as he baled. Some forage was baled in the high-moisture range (35-55%), and some was baled in the low-moisture range (15-20%). It was then stacked in his holding yards for winter feeding.

As we promised, none of the bales had any problems with heat. There were no bale fires, no combustion, not even on the high-moisture bales. Everything was cool and fermenting according to plan.

Salvaging Rain-Damaged Alfalfa through Fermentation

The summer rains of 2014 were causing significant difficulties for Tom and Matt Wood who farm their own property and run a customer farming operation in and around Rexburg, ID. Tom had repeatedly told Ken of Bio Minerals Technologies that the constant rains were stopping the drying and baling of many fields of cut and now molding alfalfa. With the ongoing rains and the mold growth, the crop was all but ruined and they were out of options. Ken suggested that Tom try the Fermentation Anaerobic Culture on part of a damaged field so he could see for himself how it would work. Tom was skeptical but he finally agreed to take 275 gallons of culture and give it a try. Tom was out of options and there was more and more rain in sight. Since the windrows of hay already had mold growing on the underneath side we recommended he use one gallon of culture per ton bale (square).

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(435) 753-2086