Factors Controlling Silage Quality

Factors Controlling Silage Quality
7/21/2017

Controlling these factors involves achieving proper carbohydrate levels, moisture content and oxygen exclusion.

Carbohydrate Level

Carbohydrate levels are directly tied to the stage of maturity at harvest. The ideal crop will have adequate fermentable carbohydrates, low buffering capacity and the physical structure suitable for compacting. 

Recommended cutting stage:

  • Corn = one-half to two-thirds milk line
  • Cereal crops = boot to dough
  • Fescue = boot
  • Orchardgrass = when blooms have emerged
  • Clover = one-quarter to one-half bloom
  • Alfalfa = bud to one-tenth bloom

Moisture Content


Moisture content depends on the type of silo that you’re using.

  • Conventional upright silo = 63% to 68% moisture
  • Oxygen‐limiting upright silo = 55% to 60% moisture
  • Horizontal silo = 65% to 70% moisture
  • Bales = 45% to 60% moisture
  • Bags = 60% to 70% moisture

Oxygen Exclusion

The three rules of oxygen exclusion are chop the forage short, fill the silo quickly and make sure that you exclude all the air so that the harvested material can ferment properly. 

For more information on silage-making, excellent resources are available at http://extension.missouri.edu/webster/pres-2015-11-10.aspx.

Tags: Management Tips; Silage