Effect of formic acid and a bacterial inoculant on the amino acid composition of grass silage and on animal performance

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An Italian ryegrass and hybrid ryegrass sward was harvested on 11 May 1994. The mean dry-matter (DM) content of the herbage was 197 g kg–1 fresh matter (FM), and mean nitrogen and water-soluble carbohydrate contents were 20 and 272 g kg–1 DM respectively. Approximately 72% of total nitrogen (TN) was in the form of protein-nitrogen. The herbage was treated with either no additive, formic acid (3·3 l t–1) (Add-F, BP) or inoculant (2·3 l t–1) (Live-system, Genus) and ensiled in 100 t silos. Changes in effluent composition with time showed that silage fermentation and protein breakdown were delayed by treatment with formic acid. Formic acid and inoculant treatments also inhibited amino acid catabolism during ensilage. All silages were well fermented at opening with pH values <4·0 and ammonia-N concentrations of ≤ 50 g kg–1 TN after 120 d ensilage. Treatment had an effect on protein breakdown as measured by free amino acid concentration, with values of 21·5, 18·2 and 13·2 mol kg–1 N at opening (191 d) for untreated, formic acid-treated and inoculated silages respectively. Amino acid catabolism occurred to the greatest extent in untreated silages with significant decreases in glutamic acid, lysine and arginine, and increases in gamma amino butyric acid and ornithine. The silages were offered ad libitum without concentrate supplementation to thirty-six Charolais beef steers for a period of 69 d (mean live weight 401 kg). Silage dry-matter intakes and liveweight gains were significantly (P <0·05) higher on the treated silages. Silage dry-matter intakes were 7·42, 8·41 and 8·23 kg d–1 (s.e.d. 0·27) with liveweight gains of 0·66, 0·94 and 0·89 kg d–1 (s.e.d. 0·058) for untreated, formic acid-treated and inoculated silage-fed cattle respectively. In conclusion, additives increased the intake of silage and liveweight gain by the beef steers, and it is suggested that this may be caused in part by the amino acid balance in these silages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-192
Number of pages12
JournalGrass and Forage Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2001


  • silage amino acids
  • silage inoculant
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • silage intake
  • beef-steer liveweight gain


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