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8 TIPS FOR PERFECT CORN SILAGE

2021-09-22

Paying attention to the eight details below while harvesting and storing corn silage can help ensure that a high-quality feed is preserved.

1. HARVEST AT 32% TO 35% DRY MATTER.

Crops with less than that will contain too much water and won’t be very high in nutrients. Effluent will flow from the silage structure, carrying away more nutrients. Start chopping around 32% to 33% DM and finish the last loads around 37% to 38%. Reaching adequate maturity of the crop gives good starch content with acceptable fiber digestibility.

2. MAKE 6-INCH LAYERS WHEN PACKING.

Thin layers pack more tightly, reducing porosity and allowing for greater removal of air. This is favorable for the beneficial bacteria that require an oxygen-free environment for optimal fermentation.

 

3. PACK, PACK, AND PACK SOME MORE.

Use two tractors going in two different directions. Packing density is at the forefront of priorities when making silage. Oxygen is the worst enemy of any ensiled forage, and you literally have to squeeze it out. Packing density should be at least 15 pounds of dry matter per cubic foot, or about 46 pounds of fresh material per cubic foot. My general rule of thumb: multiply the tonnage delivered to the bunker or pile times 800. This is the total weight needed for packing.

4. 3:1 OR 4:1 WIDTH TO HEIGHT IN A SILAGE PILE.

This is mostly for safety for the packing personnel. When a pile is too steep, it is unsafe to drive over the sides with packing tractors. Even if possible, time spent on the slopes is reduced and packing density ends up below optimal.

5. USE AN INOCULANT.

This helps ensure a fast and efficient fermentation. The type of inoculant used will be influenced by the characteristics of the crop and the specific situation of each farm. In cases where heating is a problem, an inoculant with the bacterium L. buchneri is an excellent choice because it improves aerobic stability to extend silage shelf life. One strategy I have implemented is to make a forage budget based on your storage capacity and designate a pile or bunker or segments within the structure as summer silage (next year). This silage would be inoculated with L. buchneri to maintain cool silage going into feed rations. This may stimulate feed intake during the summer months.

6. COVER THE PILE WITH TWO LAYERS.

Put an oxygen barrier below, and plastic above. Oxygen barriers are a great technology specifically developed to preserve the forage on the top 3 feet of a silo structure. Literally, these films keep your money from going to waste. Field and research reports have demonstrated that using this technology yields a positive return on investment. Additional benefits include employee safety by not having to fork off spoiled material from the top.

7. CONTAIN THE SEAL EVEN AS YOU FEED OFF THE PILE.

Upon opening, silage becomes vulnerable to aerobic deterioration and it is important to keep the edge of the silage face as air-tight as possible. If possible, consider the prevailing wind direction and open the silo from the side that will catch a drift. This helps prevent air from crawling through crevices along the upper edge of the silage face.

8. KEEP AN EVEN SILAGE FACE.

This is all about minimizing surface area exposed to oxygen as you feed from the pile. A proper face would be evenly shaved all across the width of the silo. Avoid undercutting and creating risky situations where a silage pile may collapse. Avoid getting close to a silage face. When absolutely necessary, make it mandatory for at least two people to go to the silage pile.


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