Corn Silage Dry Down – Harvesting at the Incorrect Moisture

Corn silage dry down is hastening across the state, causing the need for farmers to monitor moisture levels for optimum dry matter and forage quality.
Corn Silage Dry Down – Harvesting at the Incorrect Moisture - Articles
Corn Silage Dry Down – Harvesting at the Incorrect Moisture

Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Corn silage samples collected yesterday by Alyssa Collins, Director of the Southeast Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Landisville and Assistant Professor at Penn State, compared to samples collected last week show variability in dry down rates for differing relative maturities of corn, as well as how quickly dry down can occur this time of year. This indicates just how closely corn must be monitored during the early fall.

Relative Maturity8/17/16 Silage8/24/16 Grain8/29/16 Silage8/29/16 Grain
96 day, planted 4/21/1656%31.20%53%24.80%
103 day, planted 4/22/1670%35.30%57%27.60%
110 day, planted 5/26/1670%-69%-

Corn silage is being chopped in the southern portion of Pennsylvania, and where dry conditions persist in other regions, silage corn is continuing to draw closer to the optimum moisture content for harvest. If not monitored closely, the corn could go from ideal moisture to too dry, increasing the risk of storage losses. Silage harvested below the optimal moisture content can be difficult to pack and lead to a failure in excluding air to ensure proper fermentation, resulting in molding and heating of the forage, and in turn reducing quality and livestock performance. In the case of chopping silage that has become drier than the optimal moisture according to your storage facility, there are some management recommendations that can aid in ensuring proper fermentation and quality of your forage.

  • Decreasing length of cut and creating a finer particle helps to promote better packing, as well as increases the digestibility of the kernel. However, when the particle size is smaller as a result of the finer chop, rations should be modified to ensure adequate digestive fiber.
  • Water can be uniformly added to dry silage to increase moisture content to aid in proper fermentation. When adding water to silage, the fill rate of most silos should be slowed as a result of slow water flow from most garden hoses and to ensure uniform water distribution.
  • Liquid inoculant additives can be used to promote aerobic stability, such as propionic acid and Lactobacillus buchneri, and decrease mold growth. These inoculants should be added at concentrations based on the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Kernel processing helps silage to pack more densely which could lead to better stability of aerobic organisms, helping to aid in proper fermentation, as well as boosting the forage quality by increasing starch digestibility of the kernel, which could be a problem in dry silage.

Authors

Forage Crops Plant-Animal Interaction Pasture/Grazing management Harvested forages Ensiled forages Extending the grazing season

More by Jessica A. Williamson, Ph.D.