As harvest approaches for corn silage growers, it has become paramount to start walking fields in order to determine how the crop is progressing. As harvest timing can be critical in achieving high-quality corn silage that delivers optimal performance for livestock, the team at Hubbard Feeds has provided the following checklist for ensuring a successful harvest:
1) Optimal Dry Matter: For bunkers, piles, and bags, be ready to chop at 32 to 35 percent dry matter. Milk line is usually at half to three-quarter at this time, but don’t rely on it, as this depends on the moisture level in the field. Chopping at the optimal level of dry matter will ensure proper silage fermentation and compaction.
2) Maturity vs. Starch Level: Be aware of plant dry matter and maturity as starch levels increase. Delaying harvest to achieve higher starch levels requires the processing of corn kernels to avoid the passage of harder starch particles.
3) Kernel Processing: Kernel processing is crucial, especially with hybrids that have hard or dense starch forms, and all kernels should be broken into four pieces or finer.
4) Theoretical Length of Chop and Roller Opening: The Theoretical Length of Chop (TLC) should be adjusted from 3/8 to 3/4 inch, and roller openings should be adjusted from 1 to 4 mm (millimeters).
5) Inoculant or Preservative: Published research has shown that the use of an inoculant, such as Sil-All, and a preservative, such as Bulletproof Liquid Forage Treatment, leads to a 3 percent increase in dry matter recovery and an increase of 2 percent in energy content as the fermentation is optimized. The benefit-to-cost ratio is typically 3-to-1 in nutrient recovery.
6) Packing Density: Target corn silage density to exceed 15 pounds of dry matter per cubic foot in storage. This can be a challenge for bags and drier corn silage.
Cover Bunkers / Piles: Cover bunkers and piles with a layer of oxygen-barrier film and cover with overlapping plastic that lines the interior wall before covering with oxygen-barrier film.
7) Cover Bunkers / Piles: Be sure to cover bunkers and piles with a layer of oxygen-barrier film and cover with overlapping plastic that lines the interior wall before covering with oxygen-barrier film.
8) Evaluate Silage Fermentation: Check the fermentation profile of your corn silage to observe its fermentation pattern and determine whether or not it is optimal.
9) Calculate Needed Inventory: Calculate the amount of corn silage you needed for the 2016-2017 feeding year, and be sure to have enough 2016 corn silage to reach December of 2017. Research has shown corn silage increases in feed value if it has been allowed to ferment for 3 to 5 months after ensiling.
10. Calculate Corn Silage Value: Calculate the value of your corn silage at harvest time for use in your farm budgeting program. Try charging the current price of a bushel of corn grain times 6 or 8, depending on the relationship of a bushel of corn per acre compared to tons of wet corn per acre.