Drought Conditions: Chopping corn for silage
Dry conditions are still affecting forage production throughout the state of South Dakota. Dealing with drought conditions when feeding dairy and beef cattle can bring serious challenges to production including a short or unavailable hay supply in Western areas of the state.
Beginning this week, we are going to see corn being chopped for silage. Here are some tips and guidelines that will help producers get the best out of this crop. Corn for silage should be harvested between 60-70% moisture, which is ideal for optimum fermentation and a rapid drop in pH to preserve the feed value of the crop.
Harvest Tips: Getting the most out of your corn silage
- Keep a close eye on corn maturity once it has dented. Corn can rapidly mature or dry down due to the weather and moisture conditions. This year is not the exception as we are facing considerable dry conditions.
- The kernel milk line is the best estimate of whole plant moisture for harvest. The kernel milk line is the dividing line between sugars in the maturing kernel and starch. In South Dakota most producers will use the 1/3 milk line as a benchmark to start checking whole plant moisture and decide whether it’s the right time to harvest. If a producer harvests corn silage at 30% dry matter (DM), this will result in lower starch concentration in the silage. Mature corn silage with more than 30% DM could also imply less nutritional value because of lower fiber and starch digestibility.
- If corn to harvest is still immature, allow the crop to mature to increase DM yield per acre.
- Adding a research-proven bacterial inoculant to corn silage can reduce dry matter losses and increase digestibility.
Determining Chopped Silage Moisture Content:
Squeeze test method
|Squeeze chopped silage in your hand||Moisture Content|
|Chopped forage holds its shape and there is considerable free juice dripping.||Over 75%|
|Chopped forage holds its shape but there is very little free juice dripping.||70-75%|
|Chopped forage slowly loses its shape and there is no free juice dripping.||60-70%|
|Chopped forage rapidly loses its shape.||Below 60%|
Reference: Hinen J (2006) The big 6- Focus on the 6 keys to quality corn silage. Mid-South Ruminant Nutrition Conference. P: 1-10.