Harvest Timing Critical to Silage Success - UNL CropWatch, Aug. 23, 2013

Harvest Timing Critical to Silage Success - UNL CropWatch, Aug. 23, 2013

August 23, 2013

High quality corn silage often is an economical substitute for some of the grain in finishing and in dairy rations. Corn silage also can be an important winter feed for cow-calf producers.

All too often, though, silage isn't harvested in time to provide its best feed value.

Harvest timing is critical for success and should be based on moisture content of the silage. Silage chopped too early and wetter than 70% moisture can run or seep and often produces a sour, less palatable fermentation. This wet silage is often the product when we rush to salvage hail or wind damaged corn. Live and green stalks, leaves, and husks almost always are more than 80%  moisture so be patient and wait until these tissues start to dry before chopping for silage

Normal corn, though, is often chopped for silage too dry, below 60% moisture. Then it's difficult to chop and pack the silage adequately to force out air. The silage heats, energy and protein digestibility declines, and spoilage increases. If your silage is warm or steams during winter, it probably was too dry when chopped.

Many corn hybrids are at the ideal 60-70% moisture as corn kernels reach the one-half milkline. This guide isn’t perfect for all hybrids, though, so check your own field independently.

Corn kernels in silage between half milkline and black layer are more digestible. Drier, more mature corn grain tends to more often pass through the animal  without digesting. Also, older leaves and stalks are less digestible.

Chopping your silage at the proper moisture level will provide better feed and better profits.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist