2022 Corn Silage Considerations

2022 Corn Silage Considerations

Below are a few check points and considerations for caution regarding this year's corn crop.

Corn Silage Check Points

Correct Moisture

  • Planting dates varied this spring. August and September may still be timely to check moisture regularly due to drought in many areas across the country. 
  • Chopping corn silage at optimal mositure not only helps improve packing density, but also enhances fermentation and forage quality. 
  • As dairy rations continue to rise in cost, delaying harvest and putting up drier forages with increased starch content may seem attractive. This is not advised as it affects the digestibility of the fermented feed.
  • Rumen Digestible Starch (RDS) is a cornerstone of a dairy cow ration. Corn silage over 38% dry matter (DM) has less RDS than corn silage in the 32-27% DM range. An increase in starch content with advancing maturity is offset by the decline in the starch's ability to be digested by rumen microbes.

Ensure Quality

  • Evaluating crop health before silage is cut is essential to make accurate preservation decisions. 
  • Predict when a field will be ready by knowing the tassel date. Then use the day of silking as the start of the reproduction process as a guide for when to harvest. When the corn plant reaches the half-milk line, approximately 42 to 47 days after silking, plants will normally have 40% moisture and 97% of their total dry weight. 
  • If a custom harvesting crew is hired, it is recommended to check kernel processing (KP). You are given one chance a year to make quality feed, ask questions and have them charpen knives/tighten down the KP roll. 
  • PACK, PACK, PACK. Researchers recommend a minimum packing density of 14 pounds per cubic foot of DM. 

Eliminate Oxygen

  • Covering forage piles and/or bunks needs to take place immediately following completion of chopping. 

Corn Silage Caution Points

Precautions for a Drought-Stressed Harvest

  • A drought damaged corn field can still be salvaged as corn silage, but it can be difficult to determine when to chop.
  • Even if the corn is starting to show discolor, or turn brown, it does not mean there is no moisture. Evaluate the moisture of the standing crop to to determine when to harvest. 
  • Nitrates are a concern when areas have been drought-stricken throughout the summer.
  • The majority of nitrates are within the bottom 12 inches of the corn stalk. Raising the chopper bar can help reduce the risk and also increase the starch level without affecting the digestibility of the starch. However, use some caution as it will also raise the DM, making packing more difficult. 
  • Ensiling reduces the nitrate content of forages by up to 50%.
  • Sampling forage at chopping and then again after fermentation will give benchmarks to then determine feed out precautions. 

We Fall or Damaged Corn

  • In wet conditions, or when the crop has had aggressive weather stress, consider the amount of negative microorganisms being brought in with the chopped forage. 
  • Consider acid or L. Buchneri application to help control wild yeast or mold growth. 

Lake or Colder Harvest Weather

  • Depending on when planting was completed, harvest times could be later than ideal. 
  • If weather and temperatures permit, using a L. Buchneri product will help overcome challenges that are typically present in longer standing corn. 
  • If temperatures fall below 45-50' F, it is recommended to switch to treating with an acid as bacterial growth. Inoculants and native bacteria grow slower at these temperatures.
  • You can still treat with a bacterial inoculant as when temperatures warm back up the silage will ferment and the inoculant will help eliminate shrink and spoilage. 

Written by: Provimi NA, 2022

Tags: Corn Silage