Correct Timing Makes the Best Silage

Correct Timing Makes the Best Silage

University of Nebraska

High-quality corn silage often is an economical substitute for much of the grain in finishing and dairy rations. Corn silage also can be an important winter feed for cow-calf producers. All too often, though, we fail to harvest and store silage in ways that give the best feed value.

Harvest timing is a major factor in maintaining quality and needs to be based on moisture content of the silage. Lots of corn silage in our area is cut too late.

Silage chopped wetter than 70% moisture can run or seep and often produces a sour, less palatable fermentation. More frequently, though, we chop corn silage too dry, below 60% moisture. Then it’s difficult to chop and pack the silage adequately to force out air. The silage heats, protein and energy digestibility declines, and spoilage increases. If your silage is warm or steams during winter, it probably was too dry when chopped.

Many corn hybrids are at the ideal 60-70% moisture level as corn kernels reach the one-half milkline. This guide isn’t perfect for all hybrids, however, so check your field independently. Good silage usually can continue to be made up until black layer formation.

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