Are You Ready for Corn Silage?

Summer is moving right along and it isn’t too early to start thinking about corn silage harvest. It sounds pretty obvious but you only get one opportunity to get your corn silage harvest right each year. According to University of Illinois Dairy Extension specialist Mike Hutjens , ”Only about one-third of farms chop silage at the right particle length with the kernels sufficiently processed. “Some labs would say that number might even be a bit generous at a third. That it’s maybe closer to 15-20% who get it right.”

Whole kernels passing undigested through cows could mean a loss in milk production of up to 4 lbs/cow/day. A Penn State Forage Particle Separator is an excellent tool to check particle length and how well the corn is crushed. Properly chopped corn silage should result in about 10-15% of forage particle dry matter in the top box with no whole kernels. If you see more than 5% whole kernels or if you find pieces of cob greater than an eighth of the cob diameter, then you just don’t have those rolls set tight enough.A Corn Silage Processing Score package or CSPS is a test package available along with your regular corn silage analysis. For less than the cost of 100lbs of milk, your silage will be accessed as optimum, average or inadequately processed. With the potential for a 4lb/hd/day difference in milk production between inadequately processed silage and optimal, this package can pay for itself very quickly. Another great method to evaluate your processor is to toss a few handfuls of freshly chopped corn into a bucket of water, remove the floating stover, and examine the kernels on the bottom.Years of UW corn silage data show how much yield differed between the best and worst performers in a variety of trials. The highest-yielding hybrid averaged 3.2 tons/acre more dry matter than the lowest -producing one, a 39% difference. The average difference in milk per acre was about 11,500 lbs between the highest- and lowest-yielding hybrids.

Top Ten Corn Silage Harvest Recommendations

1. Put it up at the right time.

2. Put up the right amount.

3. Put up the right hybrid.

4. Adequately chop and process silage.

5. Fill the silo quickly.

6. Pack it, pack it and pack it!

7. Use Fermentation Plus Inoculant.

8. Cover and seal the storage unit immediately after filling.

9. Manage the face of the silo when feeding.

10. Be safe. Silage harvest days can be incredibly long.