Corn silage is on the top of the mind for many dairy farmers right now. As such, three farmers shared what they’ve learned as they work to produce the best corn silage they can. The three Wisconsin dairymen, Mitch Breunig (Mystic Valley Dairy), Brody Stapel (Double Dutch Dairy), and Brett Bonlender (Clover Hill Dairy), shared their strategies during a Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) Dairy Signal webcast.
“Growing corn silage is a year-long process,” Stapel explained. “It actually starts in September when you’re chopping it. That’s because you want to know how that certain variety did.”
When asked for their best advice, Breunig, who milks 400 cows, shared what his operation learned related to storage. “We struggled when there was so much snow. When that water melted, it ran down the sidewalls of our bunker silo and into the bottom of the bunker instead of off the pile,” he explained. They remedied the situation by forcing the water off the front of the bunker utilizing a W-shaped pile.
“There are things you can control,” Stapel said. “Continuously improve and learn from mistakes,” the young dairyman advised. His dairy, which milks 250 cows, has learned a lot as they’ve moved from storing silage in a Harvestore to a blacktop pad. “Pack, pack, and pack some more,” he suggested. “Right now, I think our biggest challenge, especially going from a two-row harvester to a custom harvester, is trying to keep up packing and knowing when to call the neighbor and call for more iron on the pile.”
The final piece of advice came from Bonlender, who milks 2,150 crossbred cows. “One thing I have learned is to not do something just because it’s easy. Listen to your crops, ground, and animals,” he said. “Just because something is easy and you can get it done fast and be done for the year, it might not be the right thing to do. Take that extra step and try to do what’s right.”
As corn reaches harvest season in the Central and Northern states, keep this advice in mind, and also pause a moment to acknowledge those lessons you’ve learned in the past. As a wise dairy farmer, John Mueller, shared in a recent DairyLivestream webcast, “If you focus on something, it traditionally gets better.”
The author is an associate editor. She covers feeding and nutrition, youth activities, and heads up the World Dairy Expo Supplement. Maggie was raised on a 150-cow dairy near Valley Center, Kansas, and graduated from Kansas State University with degrees in agricultural communications and animal sciences.