Proper Silage Harvest Management Key to Quality Feed

Forage inventories are low this year so it is critical that all aspects of the silage harvest are managed well. This includes moisture levels, kernel processing and chop length.

Harvesting corn silage from 68-65 percent moisture means critical qualities of corn silage will have just the right amount of moisture for good fermentation. Too much moisture could cause clostridial fermentation over lactic acid fermentation. Overly wet silages also can leach out essential nutrients and sugars. This, in turn, lowers energy content. Finally, too much moisture decreases starch content because the plant is immature so energy density is lowered.

Overly dry silage also spells trouble because fiber quality and starch digestibility are compromised. Packing also becomes a problem with incomplete or inadequate fermentation occurring.

The next important aspect of putting odds in favor of a successful corn silage harvest is kernel processing. The kernel processing score (KPS) measures how well corn kernels are processed or broken down. The score covers the percentage of the starch or kernels that will pass through a 4.75-millimeter screen on a Ro-Tap device. This score should be 70 percent or higher. Kernel processing increases starch digestibility – positively impacting milk production and feed efficiency. Experts recommend checking the KPS on the first day of chopping and every other day after. It also should take place when switching fields so that rollers can be adjusted if needed.

Chop length or Theoretical Length of Cut (TLC) is another important consideration. TLC is impacted by a few factors. The greater the moisture content of the corn silage, the longer the chop length should be. Drier corn silage needs to be cut shorter. Keep in mind that TLC may need to be adjusted if the corn silage has an Undigestible Neutral Detergent Fiber 240 greater than 12 percent.

Once the corn silage is out of the field, proper storage is critical. Pushing all the air possible out of the silage during storage is imperative to proper fermentation. Using an quality inoculant can also help to preserve the quality of harvested silage. Perhaps the most important aspect of silage storage is sealing the bag or pile as quickly as possible and to mend any holes. Remember, oxygen is the enemy of proper fermentation.

The yield quality of silage comes down to only a few days of harvest and storage. Since the quality of livestock feed is at stake, it is important to do it right.

The Hay Manager

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