Timing Critical to Making the Best Silage - UNL CropWatch, August 19, 2011

Timing Critical to Making the Best Silage - UNL CropWatch, August 19, 2011

August 19, 2011

High quality corn silage often is an economical substitute for some of the grain in finishing and dairy rations and can be an important winter feed for cow-calf producers. All too often, though, it's not harvested to capture its best feed value.  Timing of harvest is everything.

When planning for harvest, set your date based on the development stage of your corn rather than the calendar date when you usually make silage.  Depending on your area, growth could be several days ahead or behind normal this year. Silage chopped too early and wetter than 70% moisture can run or seep and often produces a sour, less palatable fermentation. More frequently, though, we chop corn silage when it's too dry, often 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 level 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 pass through the animal without being digested. Also, older leaves and stalks are less digestible.

This year take time to test your silage and harvest when the time's right. The outcome will be better feed and better profits.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist


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