Because of the inclusion of the cob, husk and shank, there is more variability in nutrients and particle size in snaplage compared to HMSC or dry corn. Variability in the content of non-grain material can vary with plant harvest moisture despite consistent harvesting methods. Snaplage packed and stored in horizontal bunkers will result in a more uniform end product than when blown into upright silos where separation tends to occur. When feeding a high-producing dairy herd, feed consistency is key and a high inclusion rate of snaplage in the diet may not work.
A drawback of snaplage as the sole starch source is the loss of flexibility in the ration. Because of the lower starch concentration of snaplage (usually 60 percent of HMSC or dry corn), it can become difficult to make enough room in the ration to increase starch when needed. When balancing rations, it is ideal to have more flexibility in adding or removing starch via pure grain and to balance fiber needs with forage or by-product concentrates.
Another consideration in using snaplage is the amount, size and moisture of the cob. Many times, cows will sort the cob out of the diet, resulting in a different ration on paper than actually consumed. Optimal harvest for the entire ear of corn should be at 36-42 percent moisture. If harvested too dry, snaplage can be difficult to adequately pack and will result in moldy feed.
In conclusion, harvesting snaplage may reduce feed costs while reducing flexibility in ration formulation and increasing variation in the diet. In deciding to harvest snaplage in place of corn silage and HMSC or dry corn, carefully consider the herd dynamics and feeding programs and include the herd nutritionist in the discussion.