Corn silage harvest occurs over a short span of time, providing feed for the duration of the year. A quality harvest will fuel the herd to perform; whereas a poor fermentation will lead to a feed source that could become a producers’ Achilles heel well through the next year.
So how do producers know when to make their crop? What do they need to do to harvest quality corn silage?
As Richard V. Breunig, President and Founder of Priority, shares in the most recent research hour to educate the field on how to harvest quality corn silage, the key takeaway comes down to making corn silage at 73-70% moisture with the goal to be completed by the time the crop reaches 68%.
“This is new to many, but offers tremendous quality to producers. We recommend harvesting at 80% milk,” shares Richard. “Temperature has a lot of impact as the crop will change quickly with heat units. Things are moving along quickly and producers won’t want to be caught behind, as they will end up with a dry crop. You always want to error on the wet side, as the corn silage will move quickly as it matures in warmer conditions.”
You can hear Richard’s coaching on the upcoming corn silage harvest here.
The kernel image above and full document available here illustrates the milk line and kernel fill to plant moisture.
Knowing that producers and the herd will be using this feed for the next year, producers need to be certain to make a quality crop. As every operation is different, it’s imperative for producers to find the right approach that works for their dairy. A quality crop harvest will benefit the herd through the year to come as higher plant moisture delivers a much more consistent and effective fermentation, which is what preserves the crop. Drier harvests are actually less fermentable in the bunk, increasing the risk of mold and mycotoxins, and decreasing the amount of sugar and fermentable fiber energy sources available.
For those facing drought conditions and/or water limits, think of corn silage as a tall grass – Don’t wait for a cob and kernel because the plant will become too dry and mature quickly. The energy to make the seed comes from the sugar and fermentable fiber in the plant, these are also energy sources for the cow. Learn more in this audio on drought conditions.