High-quality silage needs attention starting the day it is harvested until the day it is fed, according to University of Delaware researcher and silage expert Limin Kung.

Kung told the audience at the recent Dairy Calf and Heifer Association Annual Conference in Green Bay, Wis., that one misconception about silage quality is that molds cause spoilage. “Molds are not the reason silage spoils,” he said. “Spoilage actually is caused by yeasts that proliferate when silage is exposed to oxygen.”

That’s why anaerobic sealing and careful face management at feed-out are so important.  Other advice he shared for harvesting and preserving high-quality silage include:

  • Harvest corn silage at an ideal dry matter of 32-36%. Harvesting too early (28-30% DM) can create high acetic acid levels; too-rapid fermentation; low starch; and seepage. Harvesting too late (over 40% DM) causes reduced fiber digestibility; low acid; poor packing and poor aerobic stability.
  • Use kernel processing to improve energy availability plus increase packing density.
  • Use an L. buchneri inoculant to promote stability.
  • Add a second layer of plastic to thoroughly seal bunkers.

When silage does spoil, Kung’s advice is to dispose of it.  Based on his research, “it’s not even good feed for steers,” he said.