Corn silage is an excellent high energy feed for cattle, but only if it’s been ensiled properly to protect nutrient value and feed quality. Here are five things you need to get right when ensiling corn.
- Moisture content.
Ideally, silage corn should be in the 65% moisture range (whole plant) when harvested. It can be slightly higher or lower, but if it’s too dry going into the bunker, you risk having air pockets in the mass, which can cause heating. If it’s too wet, there is risk of losing nutrition through seepage as well as acid development, which is hard on cattle’s digestion.
- Chop length.
The right chop length depends on the moisture content of the crop at harvest. If, for example, you harvested your corn between 58% and 64% moisture, a half-inch chop is ideal; 64% to 68% moisture a three-quarter inch chop is better. Achieving the right chop length means a tight pack with no air pockets and even distribution in the bunker.
- Inoculant use.
Forage inoculants speed fermentation, reduce excessive heating, minimize nutrient and dry matter loss, and even improve the nutritional quality of silage. However, inoculants work best when all other factors affecting silage quality are in place – they cannot save poorly prepared silage.
Packing is the most important job – the silage must be packed tight to exclude any air and promote good fermentation. There’s no such thing as over-packing. If you’re unsure, try the “fingernail test”: try to pinch a bit of forage out of the pack – if you break a nail trying, it’s tight enough.
- Cover it well.
Your silage could be the best chopped, best packed pile in the land, but if you don’t cover it properly, oxygen and moisture can still ruin it for you. Cover and seal prepared silage with 4- to 6-mm plastic and weigh it down (tires work well) to preserve quality. Ensiling preserves the feed value of the crop through fermentation. It’s important to make sure that you process the harvested silage corn properly to create the right conditions for fermentation to occur in your feed bunk or silo.
We have a lot to offer beef and dairy producers looking to improve silage. Talk to your local Customer Account Manager (CAM) about how we can help with expertise and products to make sure your cows get the best silage possible.