Will you chop corn silage this year?  Do it right and time your harvest correctly.

                High-quality corn silage often is an economical substitute for some of the grain in finishing and in dairy rations.  And corn silage can be an important winter feed for cow-calf producers.  All too often, though, we fail to harvest silage to get its best feed value.

               Harvest timing is critical for success.  Timing needs to be based on moisture content of the silage.  Silage chopped too early and wetter than seventy percent moisture can run or seep and it often produces a sour, less palatable fermentation.  We often get this wet silage when we rush to salvage wind or hail damaged corn.  Live green stalks, leaves, and husks almost always are more than eighty percent moisture, so be patient and wait until these tissues start to dry before chopping.

               Normal corn, though, is often chopped for silage too dry, below sixty percent moisture.  Then it's difficult to pack the silage adequately to force out air.  The silage heats, energy and protein digestibility declines, and spoilage increases.  If your silage is warm or steams during winter, it probably was too dry when chopped.

               Many corn hybrids are at the ideal 60 to 70 percent moisture after corn kernels dent and reach the one-half milkline.  This guide isn’t perfect for all hybrids, though, so check your own fields independently.

               Corn kernels in silage between black layer and half milkline are more digestible.  Drier, more mature corn grain tends to pass through the animal more often without digesting unless processed.  Also, older leaves and stalks are less digestible.

               So chop your silage at the proper moisture level this year.  The outcome will be better feed and better profits.

Source: Bruce Anderson, Extension Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 402-472-6237