- Silage inoculants: It is not usually cost effective to use microbial silage inoculants when ensiling drought-damaged corn as silage. However, two situations may make microbial silage inoculants cost effective: 1) harvesting when temperatures are high, relative humidity is low and winds are high, or 2) harvesting when temperatures are below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Both of these harvest conditions tend to lower the levels of natural silage fermenting bacteria on corn plants. Due to the potential for high nitrate-nitrogen levels in drought-stressed corn silage, it is not recommended to add non-protein nitrogen, such as anhydrous ammonia or urea, at harvest time. However, once the silage has fermented and been tested for nitrate-nitrogen and is below 4,400 ppm, NPN could be added at the time of feeding.
- Packing: Drought-damaged corn silage is more difficult to pack than normal corn silage, especially if has little to no grain, or if it is higher in dry matter than optimal. In these cases, its packing characteristics will be more like grass or oat silage. Therefore, extra care must be exercised to ensure a good pack.
- Crop insurance: Crop producers should contact their crop insurance agent and/or local Farm Service Agency office before harvesting drought-damaged corn to insure proper procedures are followed to meet rules governing crop insurance indemnity payments.
- Pesticide concerns: It is critical to remember what herbicides and pesticides were applied to drought-damaged corn and to follow any label restrictions on these pesticide materials in regard to harvesting the crop as livestock feed. This is especially important if the drought-damaged corn being harvested for corn silage was originally intended to be harvested for corn grain. Harvesting drought-damaged corn as green chop, pasture, or as dry corn fodder is so fraught with problems these harvest options are not recommended.
Harvesting drought-damaged corn as silage is a viable option for livestock producers as long as proper guidelines are considered to reduce the hazards posed by the crop. However, making this decision also requires a logical economic analysis. The next article in this series will consider that aspect of the decision.