The last few weeks has undoubtedly brought instability to all markets including dairy and beef, but as farmers face this uncertainty, they are often powerless to do anything meaningful to halt any decline in prices.

What they do have, however, is the power to further make improvements, increase efficiency within their own farm gate, according to Terry Sloane, from Agri-King.

One area that needs more consideration is to further increase milk from forage, a factor which remains a hallmark of profitability on dairy/beef operations. This year, the industry has been faced with weakening milk and beef prices, combined with strengthening concentrate prices, provides a potential perfect storm.

He said: "Milk producers have become leaders in pasture management, grazing techniques in order to achieve maximum milk from forage. However when it comes to milk from forage, whilst indoors, usually from October to March, we often fall short and this is an area for improvement.

"The quality of conserved forage needs improved to the point where it gets close to grazed grass. How can we do this?" said Mr Sloane.

By now dairy farmers have completed their first cuts, or are about to start. "We are all too aware that early cutting increases DMD and protein content of the silage, but what many do not realise is what's happening to this high quality forage in the clamp after sealing the pit.

"Agriking has, for many years, focused in this area, as this is where energy is lost, protein is lost, tonnes of forage DM is lost, and income is lost. It's the fermentation temperature, and equally the fermentation time that directly affects the quality and quantity here.

"Higher fermentation temperatures in untreated silage, burns up sugars (energy) and protein. With this burn up, we get shrinkage of the pit – or more commonly referred to as fermentation losses. This, although accepted by the industry, can often be as high as 12-14% of the tonnes of DM ensiled.

"How many farmers pay attention to their fermentation temperature, and speed of fermentation, despite ensiling high quality grass days earlier? How many farmers weigh the amount ensiled, sample the green chop ensiled and then record amount fed out?

"Not many, I would imagine. If we cant measure, we can't manage forage stocks and quality. It's here where money is lost. Slow fermentation, at high temperature results in up to 12-14% of the DM tonnes lost.

"Put your own value on that. We don't write a cheque for that directly, so we don't see it as a cost.

Over the years, Siloking has consistently achieved 7-10% less DM loss by using unique strains of lactic acid bacteria to create a fast fermentation, at much lower temperatures. "Due to this 'flash fermentation' we have retained more sugars and protein that was harvested. We also reduced shrinkage, as the pit becomes stable faster."

It's all down to the enzyme formulation, he argued. "Our unique enzyme combination attack the cellulose and hemicellulose part of the plant fibres. Cellulose and hemicellulose are structural carbohydrates that contain sugar. The sugar, however, is trapped in this fibre matrix and not all available to the cow for digestion or absorption," he said.

"It's only with the correct enzyme combination that the cellulose and hemicellulose can be broken down from the plant fibre, thereby releasing the sugar to the rumen bacteria, resulting in more energy available for absorption into the blood, making more milk or beef.

"Anti-oxidants are used to 'scavenge' up any remaining oxygen in the clamp, providing the ideal environment, as the presence of trapped air in drier forages, leads to heating, resulting in respiration, energy loss and shrinkage."

Using a mould inhibitor also helps. "Its job is to fight of the growth of fungus, yeasts and moulds which are detrimental to cow health. Again this feature is important, eliminating the growth of mycotoxins often picked up in the field in crops such as wholecrop, maize, or even contaminated grass.

"Lastly, a plant extract included in Siloking, helps reduce the effect of high nitrates in your forage. It doesn't remove nitrates, but converts them in two steps to ammonia, a source that the rumen can handle, without any harmful effects."