Snaplage is generally understood to be the entire ear of corn (husk, cob, grain, and part of the shank). Snaplage is harvested by a silage harvester with a snapper head and a kernel processor. Earlage is similar to snaplage but it generally does not include the husk and has very little of the shank.
Earlage can be harvested using a snapper head or by adjusting the combine to break up the cob and return the cob and grain to the bin. The feeding characteristics can vary greatly depending on the amount of husk and shank in the final product. For the purpose of this article, the term snaplage will be used for this final product.
There are positives and negatives to feeding snaplage. Producers must carefully evaluate their feeding situations and decide if snaplage is a good fit for their operation.
Recently, researchers at the University of Wisconsin completed an 8-week feeding study in which they compared snaplage, high-moisture shelled corn (HMSC), and a mix of snaplage and dry corn fed to 60 cows, approximately 100 days in milk. Upon feedout, HMSC was 78.2 percent dry matter (DM) and 71.2 percent starch, and snaplage was 68.5 percent DM and 61.0 percent starch.
Forage content was the same in all diets. The three experimental diets were:
1) 21.5 percent HMSC and 9 percent soy hulls (24 percent dietary starch),
2) 29.2 percent snaplage (26 percent dietary starch), or
3) 20.0 percent snaplage and 9.2 percent dry ground shelled corn (27 percent dietary starch).
Dry matter intake was significantly higher in cows fed HMSC. Milk yield was not affected by diet, however milk fat percentage for cows fed HMSC was significantly higher than for cows fed snaplage and the snaplage + dry corn diets (3.67 percent, 3.40 percent, and 3.52 percent, respectively). This result may be attributed to the low moisture HMSC (21.8 percent) having less negative effect on ruminal pH in comparison to the snaplage (31.5 percent moisture). The 3.5 percent fat-corrected milk yield was not statistically different (88.9, 85.1, and 87.0 lb/cow/day, respectively).
In this study, feed costs were lowest for the snaplage diet and income over feed cost was greatest for the snaplage + dry corn diet. The authors concluded that the mixture of 2/3 snaplage and 1/3 dry ground shelled corn was the most favorable treatment.
Snaplage can lower feed costs because of lower fuel costs in hauling snaplage compared to corn silage. For grain harvest, snaplage offers higher yields and less harvesting costs compared to combining and running corn grain through a grinder or roller mill. While snaplage may offer feed cost savings for some producers, it is not for everyone.