Expert Answers - July 17, 2009

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Answer provided by Fred Owens, senior research scientist at Pioneer Hi-Bred International.

Q: What are some of the benefits of ensiled high-moisture corn over feeding dry corn?

A: There are a number of benefits that people talk about.

Some of these are agronomic rather than nutritional. Typically, one can harvest the material earlier, which often means better weather and opening up the field for fall field work. Also, if it’s harvested as high-moisture corn, one doesn’t need to dry the corn if one has frost before the corn is ripe. And with earlier harvest, oftentimes there is higher grain yield because fewer ears are dropped in the field.

It is a different system than dry corn in that it requires a silo, a pit or a trench in order to store the material. And once the material is fermented, it has to be used as feed because it’s wet and can’t be handled through commercial markets. So, those are some of the advantages of harvesting the material as high-moisture corn.

As far as feeding value, the digestibility of ensiled high-moisture corn is virtually equal to steam-flaked corn, which makes it of higher value than dry-rolled corn. Similar to corn silage, high-moisture corn has an ideal harvest moisture content. It is best fermented and best digested if it is harvested in the range of 26 to 32 percent moisture. The problem with higher-moisture material is that it is harvested before the grain has fully developed, so one is sacrificing yield. If one gets drier than 26 percent, typically the starch is less digested, so that there’s an ideal window for harvesting high-moisture corn.

Like corn silage, one has to exclude air during storage to let the material ferment. One wants to keep air from penetrating into the mass, because any time the material is exposed to oxygen it permits spoilage to begin. One other advantage of high-moisture corn is that it is typically processed at harvest time. With dry corn, one has to roll or grind the material prior to feeding, whereas with high-moisture corn, typically it is all prepared so it can be simply scooped out of the pit or trench and mixed right into the ration. One has a simpler material to feed at feeding time.

Typically, the energy value for high-moisture corn is at least 10 percent greater than for dry-rolled corn. So, from an energy standpoint, it is a more valuable feed to feed.

What are some of the limitations of feeding high-moisture corn?

Like steam-flaked corn, it is a rapidly fermented feed, so one has to watch out for problems with acidosis due to rapid fermentation in the rumen. One is also dealing with a wet feed, so there is slightly more weight to handle. Those are the major limitations. And then, of course, from a standpoint of marketing, one has to feed the material because it is not dry so it can’t be transported and handled like dry corn.

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