Are You Ready For Silage Season?

Aug 10, 2020

Tara Jo Bina
Countryside Feed Livestock Nutrition

When ensiled properly, silages are great feed for both beef and dairy cattle as well as sheep and goats! Being prepared for the quickly approaching silage season can ensure the best quality silage and reduce stress while filling bags, piles, bunkers, or silos! Here are a few things we recommend thinking through before firing up choppers:
  1. Know the proper moisture
Chopping corn at 66 – 70% moisture is ideal. Dry silage is very hard to pack properly, while putting up silage that is too wet increases risk of toxin development. Several new hybrids have been much drier than what it appears! Test chopping or bringing stalks into your Countryside Feed mill to be ran through the stalk chopper for moisture testing is a great way to get a good grasp on where your moisture is.
  1. Chop length
Deciding the length to chop silage to is a bit of a balancing act that can revolve around your goals. Longer particle sizes can increase the effectiveness of the fiber but do not pack as well, especially if moisture levels drop below 70%. On the other hand, smaller particle sizes pack very well and increase the digestibility of silage but chopping too fine takes away from the “scratch factor” and may result in needing to add more hay or straw to diets. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend chopping silage between ½ and ¾ of an inch, leaning to the finer side especially when silage is not kernel processed.
  1. Kernel processing (for corn silage)
Processing kernels helps improve energy availability to animals as it is fed out. Kernel processing alone can result in a 5 to 10-pound increase in milk on dairies! An easy way to check if a kernel processor is getting the job done is to add about 32 ounces of green chop scorn silage to a 5-gallon bucket of water. Fodder will sort to the top leaving corn kernels at the bottom of the bucket. Evaluate the kernels to be sure they are getting processed.
  1. Inoculant
Silage inoculants help fermentation by driving pH down faster, resulting in more stable silage, reduced dry matter loss, and increased bunk life. To learn more about silage inoculants read Quality Silage Inoculants can improve Nutritive Quality and Provide a Aubstantial ROI.
  1. Packing Power
Proper fermentation of silage is dependent on maintaining an oxygen free atmosphere. Because of this, packing is one of the most important parts of the silage harvest process. When filling bunkers or piles, we recommend 2 packing tractors per chopper. Bags should appear even and stretched not bumpy and loose when filled properly.
  1. Cover silage
Covering silage is another way to maintain an oxygen free atmosphere. Fermentation starts as soon as the plant is chopped so covering silage immediately after it is packed can help recover more dry matter and reduce spoilage. The fact that three feet of corn silage is required to produce one foot of spoilage is often overlooked.
Make sure you put up the best quality silage this silage season by talking with your Countryside Feed representative about best practices for corn silage harvest!


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