UNL CropWatch Sept. 3, 2010: Making Silage from Dry Corn

UNL CropWatch Sept. 3, 2010: Making Silage from Dry Corn

Sept. 3, 2010

With the good August heat, corn in many areas matured ahead of normal. For growers cutting corn for silage, this dryer corn can be a concern.

Dry silage often heats and molds, lowering its energy and protein digestibility. This happens because dry silage is difficult to pack, which allows more oxygen to remain imbedded in the silage. Many corn fields currently are too dry for making the best silage and adding water to increase moisture content is next to impossible. It takes about seven gallons of water for each ton of silage to raise moisture content just one point. Even if you have enough water, the chopped corn can’t absorb it fast enough to do any good.

A better solution may be to blend the dry corn with a wetter feed like fresh alfalfa, forage sorghum, green soybeans, or later planted corn that’s still quite green. It can be tricky to get the right combination, but it can produce excellent silage. Your main goal is to minimize oxygen in your silage.

Another way to achieve this is to adjust knives to cut finer and to do some extra packing, even if the chopped corn seems to spring right back. I also suggest saving your wettest forage for the top layer. This adds extra packing weight and can help you get a better seal. If you do have water handy, apply it to this top layer for even more packing weight. Plus, always cover dry silage with plastic to prevent outside air from seeping in.

To make the best silage, it’s important to get the moisture right. If it’s too dry, chop extra fine, pack well, and cover with plastic.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist