Creating High-Quality Corn Silage

Creating High-Quality Corn Silage

Corn silage is a valuable source of energy for beef and dairy cattle. Managing the process of turning the corn crop into a high-quality fermented feed can be a profitable transaction, or could be financially devastating.

Healthy corn plants = low yeast and mold counts and better fermentation.

  • Healthy, non-stressed crops have lower in-field yeast and mold levels than crops stressed by too little or too much moisture, hail and diseases.
  • Healthy corn plants will have higher sugar and starch levels than stressed crops.
  • Stressed corn plants may dry down much faster than healthy plants.

Correct plant moisture aids in packing and creating high-quality corn silage.

  • Corn should be chopped for silage at 63-68 percent whole plant moisture or when the kernel milk line is 1/3-3/4 point. When these characteristics do not coincide, go with whole plant moisture.
  • “Stay green” genetics may result in a much drier kernel than would be expected from whole plant moisture. Chop at desirable whole plant moisture and process kernels properly.
  • A corn crop drier than 65 percent moisture will pose packing challenges, resulting in trapped oxygen to enhance yeast and mold growth during the fermentation process.

There is only one chance to chop and process the corn silage correctly.

  • Close monitoring of the chopping process is critical, as the silage cannot be chopped and processed a second time.
  • Theoretical chop length for traditional corn silage is 3/4”, and for shredlage 1”.
  • The chop length should be shortened if corn silage is below 65 percent moisture to aid in packing.
  • Kernel processing should be checked periodically through each chopping day. Throw 3 handfuls of chopped corn plants into a 5-gallon pail of water, stir thoroughly, then allow the plant material to settle for a few minutes, pour off the water and forage to allow inspection of the kernels in the bottom of the pail. There should be no whole kernels in the pail; otherwise adjust kernel processing.

Proper selection of an inoculant aids in creating high-quality corn silage.

Pack, pack and then pack some more.

  • Keep pack tractor tires clean.
  • Proper packing removes oxygen to restrict yeast and mold growth. Packing goals are >15 lb DM/ft3 for corn silage.
  • A general guideline is 800 pounds of packing tractor weight per ton of silage delivered to the bunker or pile per hour. For example, 100 tons of silage delivered per hour would require 80,000 pounds of packing weight.
  • Do not neglect to provide excellent packing on final layers.
  • The University of Wisconsin’s agriculture engineering program has an excellent website for packing and designing silage storage facilities. In particular, they wrote an article on drive-over pile construction (

Cover up silage quickly.

  • After chopping healthy corn plants at the right moisture, correct length, proper kernel processing, applying the right inoculant, packing and then packing some more, quickly cover with high-quality plastic to restrict oxygen penetration into the top layers of the silage.Oxygen-limiting plastic is more expensive than regular plastic, but pays for itself by reducing spoilage.

Send everyone safely home at the conclusion.

  • Everyone returning home safely is more important than reducing shrink or the getting the job completed quicker.

Correctly managing the process of converting a corn crop into a high-quality fermented feed can be a profitable means to create a valuable source of energy for dairy and beef cattle.

©2018 Provimi North America, Inc.

Tags: Corn Silage, Management Tips