Ensilibility and protein degradation characteristics of forage from mountain grasslands containing tanniferous species

Simon Ineichen, Andrea B. Seiler, Ueli Wyss, Carsten S. Malisch, Beat Reidy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Ensiling forage from species-rich mountain grasslands is challenging. Low concentrations of fermentable carbohydrates and the coarse morphological structure of the forage promote the activity of butyric acid forming bacteria. This is associated with the formation of ammonia from protein degradation, resulting in an insufficient pH decline. On the other hand, forage from species-rich swards may contain tanniferous plant species which contain varying contents of condensed tannins (CT). Therefore, the silage quality of forage prepared from species-rich mountain grasslands and the role CT may play in silage fermentation was studied. A set-up of two long-term mineral fertilization field experiments, located in the Jura mountains and the Alps in Switzerland were used to obtain forage with contrasting species and chemical composition. Collection was done during both the generative and vegetative growth stage from three differently fertilized swards: unfertilised (“0”), fertilized with phosphorus and potassium (“PK”) or fertilized with PK and nitrogen (“NPK”). The forage was wilted to approximately 37% dry matter (DM), chopped to 2 cm lengths and ensiled for at least 65 days as laboratory-scale silages. The wilted forage was characterized by concentrations of crude protein between 117 and 130 g/kg DM and water-soluble carbohydrates varying from 84 to 148 g/kg DM. Concentrations of CT ranged from 6 g to 14 g/kg DM and those of soluble CT from 1.8 to 7.6 g/kg DM. All silages contained butyric acid, irrespective of the type of fertilization or harvest stage (range: 1.5 g to 16 g/kg DM). Concentrations of acetic and lactic acid ranged from 2.1 g to 15.0 g/kg DM and from 21.0 to 44.0 g/kg DM, respectively. Concentrations of unfermented sugar remained high and pH levels were above those expected. Formation of non-protein-N (NPN) increased in the range of 130 to 264 g/kg N from wilted to ensiled forage. The negative correlations of CT or soluble CT contents with ammonia-N or NPN in silage were found in both forage from the generative and vegetative harvests indicating a possible relationship with protein degradation during ensiling.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGrass and Forage Science
Pages (from-to)622-635
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • condensed tannin
  • forbs
  • long-term mineral fertilization
  • protein fraction
  • silage quality


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