With forage inventories low and a corn silage crop that can vary field by field and section by section, it’s critical to control as much of the harvest process as you can this year.
These include harvesting at optimum plant moisture, proper chop length, sufficient kernel processing and silo packing. “Taking time and putting in the effort to control the controllables will pay off with high-quality silage,” says Mark Kirk, business development and customer relations manager for Rock River Laboratory.
“When the coming year’s feed depends on those few short days of harvest and storage preparation, it pays to do it correctly and make sure those on the team know the importance, too,” Kirk emphasizes.
Here are critical areas to manage:
• Whole plant moisture. “To me, the ideal harvest moisture is the single biggest key to harvest management,” Kirk says. Corn silage should be harvested when the whole plant moisture is 65 to 68%.
“Silages wetter than 70% moisture often leach out essential nutrients and sugars, lowering the energy content of the silage,” he says. Wet silage also risks sloppy fermentation and possible clostridial fermentation.
“When silage moisture drops below 60%, fiber quality and starch digestibility suffer,” Kirk says. “Packing becomes a problem, too, with insufficient moisture, causing incomplete or inadequate fermentation.”
• Kernel processing. Kernel processing score (KPS) is the percentage of the starch or kernels that pass through a 4.75 millimeter screen on a Ro-Tap device. “A good KPS score is 70% or higher,” Kirk says. Check your KPS score the first day of chopping and at least every other day of harvest, or when switching fields.
• Chop length. The recommended theoretical length of cut (TLC) will depend on a number of factors, says Kirk. Wetter corn silage can be cut up to three-quarters of an inch, but drier plant material needs to be cut shorter—as short as three-eighths of an inch, he says. TLC may also need to be shortened if Undigestible Neutral Detergent Fiber 240 is more than 12%.
• Silo packing. One of the most controllable factors you have is silo packing. “Pushing all the air possible out of the silage during storage is imperative to proper fermentation,” he says. “Using a research-proven inoculant is another added protection to preserve the quality of the silage you harvest.
Sealing the silage pile or bag as quickly as possible after packing is complete is also critical. “Oxygen is one of the biggest nemesis to proper fermentation,” says Kirk.
For more on chopper adjustments, click here.
For more on corn silage harvest management, click here.