As a dairy producer, you know that corn silage is a very important source of energy and fiber for dairy cows. Historically it has represented 40 percent to 45 percent of the ration Dry Matter, but today levels of 60% are being used. To ensure you are feeding your cows the best silage possible and protect the investment you have worked hard to grow, it is important to incorporate good silage management practices at harvest. Here are some tips to keep in mind at harvest, when storing and when feeding.

At harvest:

  • Harvest corn silage at 35 percent Dry Matter (DM) and have a milk line of 1/2 to 2/3.
  • To make sure corn is ready to be harvested, collect 15 plants/acre to check the milk line.
  • Generally, silage should be chopped at 6-8 inches above the ground. If nitrates are suspected, chop at least 10 inches from the ground.
  • Be sure all guards and shields are in place on your harvesting equipment.
  • Make sure all harvesting equipment has been inspected, recently serviced, and sharpened.

When storing:

  • Start by making sure your storage area is free of any moldy or bad quality silage.
  • Fill your storage container as quickly as possible to discourage fungal growth.
  • If you’re using a pit or bunker, make sure that there is a minimum of five minutes/wet ton for adequate packing.
  • After packing, make sure that you have adequately sealed or covered your silage. Proper sealing will have an 8:1 return on monies spent.
  • If pits or bunkers are used, it is recommended that 20 tires per 100 square feet are placed on the pile.

When feeding:

  • At feed out, remove four to six inches per day across the entire face to reduce silage loss due to aerobic deterioration.
  • If you are using a front-end loader, don’t scoop from the face of the pile. Instead, take the bucket and pull the silage off the face and then use the bucket to remove the fallen silage and all loose silage from the floor of the pile.
  • Check for silage gas.
  • Give the silage 100-120 days post harvest to ferment before feeding.
  • Be sure to have your silage checked for dry matter and nutrient content.
  • Silage additives can be used, but be careful to only utilize ones that have scientific evidence to support their use. As always, follow all label instructions.

If you have any questions regarding silage management, feel free to contact me at gerald.weigel@basf.com. Best wishes for a successful harvest!