If there’s one thing the dairy industry has learned from the corn boom of the past few years, it’s that corn silage is not really a commodity product. Rather, it’s a highly valuable-yet-diverse feedstuff that may have the ability to dramatically impact a dairy’s profitability.
“I’ve worked with silage for more than three decades, and I can honestly say I’ve learned more in the past three years than the rest of my career,” says John Kurtz, North American Cattle Team Manager for Chr. Hansen, Inc. in Milwaukee, Wis. “The high value of corn, combined with our expanding knowledge of ruminant nutrition, has placed tremendous focus on maximizing absolutely the highest possible nutritive return from a very traditional dairy feedstuff.”
ShredlageTM a game-changer
A recent advancement in corn-silage processing has been the advent of Shredlage™, which is type of corn silage harvested using a custom set of processing rolls mounted on a conventional chopper. The Shredlage processing unit shreds the corn plant longitudinally, while simultaneously shattering the corn kernel. The more vertical processing pattern allows for longer chop lengths, typically ranging from 26 to 28 mm.
Kurtz says this method of processing should provide a number of benefits compared to conventionally processed corn silage, including:
• More physically effective fiber (peNDF), which slows passage rates and provides more rumen scratch, allowing producers to replace other fiber sources in the ration.
• More readily available starch and sugars as a result of greater surface area and a higher degree of kernel processing.
• A more consistent fiber source compared to alternatives like alfalfa, which can vary tremendously in moisture and dry-matter levels from one cutting to the next.
Wisconsin nutritionist Jim Barmore with GPS Dairy Consulting says these theoretical advantages have proven to be true in practice on his clients’ farms that have adopted Shredlage. He says the herds that have begun using Shredlage have, indeed, been able to cut back on other fiber sources in the TMR, and the Shredlage has supported excellent kernel and starch processing.
The nutritionist keeps a close eye on fecal starch levels, which he likes to see in the range of just 1 to 2 percent. “Any higher than that, and we are wasting energy,” he says. “The herds using Shredlage have been able to keep fecal starch scores desirably low.”