Three silages were prepared from the primary growth of a predominantly perennial ryegrass sward (dry matter (DM) 175 g/kg; crude protein 142 g/kg DM; water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC) 243 g/kg DM). Herbage was wilted for 24 h and then treated with either an inoculant/enzyme preparation (Lactobacillus plantarum, Streptococcus faecium and Pediococcus acidilactici), formic acid applied at 4·2 lit (Add F, BP Chemicals) or no additive. Time series analysis of laboratory silages revealed that different patterns of fermentation had been achieved: formic acid treatment resulted in high levels of residual WSC and low levels of lactic acid, indicative of an inhibited fermentation, whilst treatment with the inoculant/enzyme preparation resulted in high levels of lactic acid with a low level of residual sugars, as expected with an enhanced fermentation. Analysis of the material ‘as fed’ showed that losses in the WSC content of the formic acid-treated silage had occurred in the clamp. Secondary fermentation of lactic to acetic acid was apparent in the untreated silage, but not in the inoculant/enzyme-treated silage. Digestibility, as determined using Greyface wether lambs, was marginally higher for both additive treatments when compared with the untreated silage. An evaluation of the silages for milk production was carried out at three levels of concentrate supplementation using 18 Ayrshire × British Friesian cows in a replicated 3×3 Latin-square design experiment. Treatment with formic acid resulted in significantly higher DM intakes, but this was not reflected in milk energy output. Cows offered the inoculant/enzyme-treated silage partitioned energy away from milk production toward body tissue deposition (average milk yields 19·9, 19·9 and 15·2 kg/day, and weight gain 0·26, 0·38 and 0·81 kg/day for the untreated, formic acid and inoculant/enzyme-treated silages respectively). The reason for this is not clear, but it is postulated that microbial capture of degraded nitrogen may have been impaired with the inoculant/enzyme-treated silage, resulting in an imbalance in metabolizable protein: metabolizable energy.