Corn Silage after July 1?

Posted: July 2, 2013

Now that we have turned the calendar to July, consider some alternatives when planting corn for silage.

This article was adapted by Andrew Frankenfield, Penn State Extension for Pennsylvania from Thomas Kilcer’s ADVANCED AG SYSTEM June 2013 Crop Soil News.

Depending on the remainder of the growing season and your location in the state, their will likely be little grain produced on corn silage planted on corn after July 1st. Grain that is produced will be wet, potentially setting marginal rations up for bouts of acidosis, feet problems, low production, and abuse of nutritionists. There is a potential window if you harvest before a killing frost, when sugars are high. A homolactic bacteria could rapidly ferment it for proper ensiling. You are harvesting nearly all stover. The digestibility of that forage becomes critical. At this point, the best switch is to high forage yielding Brown Mid Rib Sudan-sorghum. It will give you the same or more yield/acre than corn but because it is mowed and dried, you can control wetness. More importantly, harvested correctly, it will give you more milk/acre and more digestible forage than any other crop. Research at Miner Institute found that cows will milk on BMR Sudan-sorghum the same as good corn silage, and produce higher rumen pH and higher components. Click here for further research and farm information (Note: BMR is NOT an option for planting and forgetting it. It will grow 3 inches a DAY and quickly get too tall for manageable harvest.) Most farmers mow when the tallest leaf is at 3 feet tall. It is best mowed with intermeshing rollers (tine conditioners are useless) and wide swathed. It is critical that it is round bale wrapped or ensiled the same day you mow it (see October 2012 newsletter). The crop is very high in sugars which we found allows rapid fermentation even at higher moisture levels. Conversely, mowing and leaving it overnight will produce a tremendous amount of butyric and clostridia while removing much of the energy that your grew the crop for. If you are a crop manager that can stay on top of things, then planting BMR sorghum-Sudan would work.

What about BMR Sorghum? Most BMR sorghum is longer season than we have left. For southern areas (south of the Mason Dixon line) there is an 83 day BMR sorghum. It is critical that it be drilled at less than 8 lbs of seed/acre to reduce the potential for lodging. Feed quality is excellent, and because of a special gene, the dry matter at direct cut can be great for fermentation.

Click here for more information on Summer Annual Forages for Supplemental or Emergency Forage.

Contact Information

Andrew Frankenfield
  • Extension Educator, Agronomy
Phone: 610-489-4315