Paul Trierweiler plans to harvest corn silage a little differently this year. The Westphalia, Mich., dairy producer has heard good things about a method of harvesting whole-plant corn silage called Shredlage™, and he wants to give it a try this fall.
"We heard about Shredlage™ and the prospect of better production, better components or both," says Trierweiler, who runs the 1,250-cow operation with his brother Frank and nephew Bryant.
How the silage performs in the herd is yet to be determined, but Trierweiler is optimistic that performance will meet his expectations, and there is emerging research from the University of Wisconsin to suggest it will.
Here is a look at that research.
More coarse material
Shredlage™ is a trademarked, patent-pending technology from Shredlage, LLC. In the trial at Wisconsin, the process resulted in corn silage with more coarse material at feed out than the same hybrid that was kernel-processed, says Randy Shaver, University of Wisconsin-Madison extension dairy nutritionist. The Shredlage™ also had a higher kernel processing score (meaning more of the starch is available for digestion). For more details on chopper settings, particle length and kernel processing score, please see "A look at the details" at right.
Shaver and graduate student Luiz Ferraretto fed the two treatment diets to 112 lactating cows in the university herd. The 10-week trial began in October and concluded in December when supplies of the experimental silages ran out. Experimental diets contained 50 percent of ration dry matter from either Shredlage™ or conventionally processed corn silage.
A look at digestibility
Shredlage™ has piqued the curiosity of producers looking for a way to chop a drier corn silage, without sacrificing starch availability. Harvesting a drier corn silage wasn't the focus of the Wisconsin study, but they did examine nutrient composition and digestibility of the silages.
They found no difference in dry matter, crude protein, starch and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) percentages between samples of the two silages taken at feed out. Ferraretto and Shaver analyzed fecal samples from the cows to predict total tract starch digestibility.
"We saw a highly significant treatment effect in favor of the Shredlage™," Shaver says, adding that the gap in starch digestibility between the two silages continued to widen as the trial progressed. However, he says this gap might have become less dramatic over time had the silage stayed in storage for a longer time period.
Surprisingly, NDF digestion did not differ between the treatments. Shaver would have thought the opposite to be true, given the more aggressive rolling action during Shredlage™ harvest, but he's cautious not to read too much into these findings until more research can be done.
A 2-pound advantage
So how did the cows perform on the Shredlage™? In a nutshell, pretty favorably. Here's a look at performance:
A LOOK AT THE DETAILS
The first chart below shows the self-propelled forage harvester settings and kernel processing scores at feed out for Shredlage™ vs. kernel-processed corn silage. The second chart compares the particle length of the two silage treatments at feed out. It shows that the Shredlage™ technique yielded more coarse material (31.5% vs. 5.6% on the top screen of a particle separator box.)
As the feeding period progressed, the difference in milk production between the two treatment groups really spread out, Shaver says. In fact, during the final week of treatment, the cows fed Shredlage™ boasted a 4.4-pound advantage in fat-corrected milk.
Overall, these results are good news for producers like Trierweiler who want to ramp up the amount of forage in the diet, yet not lose digestibility, milk production or valuable milk components. He's currently at 60 percent forage and looking to go higher. Will this technique help him get there? The research seems to suggest he's on the right track.
For more information: Get answers to frequently asked questions about corn Shredlage™ by typing "Get answers about corn shredlage" into the "Search" box at dairyherd.com