Expert Answers - Aug. 17, 2007

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Answer by Mike Hutjens, extension dairy specialist, University of Illinois

When should drought-stressed silage be chopped and what is the feeding value?

A: Ensiling should occur at the same dry matter level as normal corn silage (30 to 35 percent dry matter), depending on your storage unit. In the field, milk line may not be available (no ears) and kernels may not reflect total plant dry matter. If the plant has green material, it is still alive converting sunlight and soil nutrient to plant nutrients even if no ear is present. These nutrients are stored in the plant. The best guideline is to chop several representative stocks and conduct a dry matter analysis using a Koster tester, microwave, or send a sample to a commercial lab. The feeding value (protein, energy, and mineral levels) will be similar to normal corn silage, but dry matter yield can be reduced by 10 to 50 percent. Starch levels can be variable depending on plant height, pollination, and kernel fill. Ensile stressed corn silage and conduct a forage test, especially starch, soluble and total protein, NDF (neutral detergent fiber), and NDF digestibility. Nitrate levels can be elevated, but after an effective fermentation these levels can be reduced by 40 to 60 percent.

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