Our first thought is that beer and silage are very different. First of all, our senses tell us very different things when they are exposed to silage or beer. Secondly, our brain tells us silage is part of the cow’s diet and beer is what many of us consume in the bar on Saturday night.
Making yeasts work for you
When we look a bit closer, we can see many similarities. From a scientific point of view, both beer and silage are a result of fermentation. The aim of fermentation is to control the process where sugar ferments by yeasts into other desirable products, but this depends on the purpose of use. Fermentation is a general method to increase shelf life of many products in the food and feed chain and therefore the process is optimized to create a specific taste and smell as well.
In the case of beer brewing, the process is strongly controlled by the brewer to achieve the right taste and level of ethanol from (mostly) barley by adding specific yeasts strains in a controlled environment. The hops, which are added to beer during the brewing, contain essential oils to add additional flavors and alpha acids to increase the shelf life of the beer.
The fermentation of silage shows many similarities. In silage the fermentation starts almost immediately after closing the clamp. In the closed environment lactic acid bacteria start to produce the desired lactic acid for good taste and stability of the silage over time.
Acids enhance storage stability
This spontaneous fermentation of silage has some disadvantages: lactic acid bacteria have to compete with other bacteria, which produce undesired substances, such as smelly butyric or ammonia from valuable sugars and proteins. Especially on the Northern hemisphere, it is more difficult to produce optimal silage due to the climate. In such a climate, it is important to support the fermentation with selected organic acids. These organic acids do not affect the lactic acid bacteria. They limit the bacterial growth that produces the unwanted substances by lowering the pH and by their antibacterial properties. This results in a more stable silage over time, less nutrient losses and a better taste.
The same is true for beers where hops have been used for hundreds of years to increase the stability of beers. Alpha acids derived from hop cones during brewing have a bacteriostatic effect on bacteria. It is even said that the currently popular beer style India Pale Ale (IPA, a very bitter beer) was developed by British brewers because regular beers did not survive the trip to India in good condition.
You and your cattle deserve the best, CHEERS!