As corn silage harvest season moves north across the United States, along with it comes an important reminder: farmers only have one chance to put up this staple crop.
“Monitoring dry matter content is likely the most important factor to make high-quality corn silage,” shared the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Matt Akins in a recent Midwest Forage Association Forage Focus.
The dairy management specialist reminded readers that ideal whole plant dry matter should be between 32 and 38 percent depending on how a farm intends to store the silage. Within that range, lower dry matter percentages work better in horizontal storage situations where the slightly wetter forage will pack more easily. In upright silos, he suggested harvesting on the higher side of the dry matter range in order to minimize seepage through the structure.
That being said, the weather, equipment, and labor can all impact timeliness of harvest. For that reason, it’s important that corn silage dry matter testing begins once kernels are mostly dented and the milkline is visible. Tracking where the plant is in the dry down process allows time for planning.
Along with dry matter, Akins noted that particle size, kernel processing, and chop height all figure into quality silage production.
Specifically speaking to chop height, he reminded farmers that use of higher chop heights should be based on hybrid selection.
“High chopping is not recommended for brown midrib corn hybrids, as they have higher fiber digestibility, and you’ll want to maximize tonnage harvested,” Akins said. “Forage inventory must be considered. High chopping should only be used if there will be sufficient yields to fill inventory needs.”
Before hitting the fields this fall, do your homework and be prepared to bring in the best quality silage to set the feeding stage for the rest of the year.