As a result of limited hay crops in some areas this past summer, beef producers may be interested in harvesting corn silage. It can be a cost-effective feed for cattle and with proper harvesting, storing, and feeding, it can be easily maintained over time. Hugo Ramirez, Iowa State University dairy specialist, recently shared his tips for making quality silage.
First, corn silage should be harvested at the proper moisture content. Silage needs to be at 35% dry matter (or 65% moisture). This ensures that it packs tight enough to become anaerobic, allowing bacteria to do their job throughout the season. Harvesting at 2/3 to 3/4 milk line is a common practice.
Next, producers should pay attention to chop length and kernel processing. When using a kernel processor, particle size should be about 3/4,” according to Ramirez. If producers choose not to use a processor, the particles should be 1/4" to 1/2" in length.
Adding lactic acid-producing bacteria to chopped corn can also increase the “good” bacteria and speed up the fermentation process. This results in less spoilage and higher feed quality.
Packing is critical to remove oxygen from the pile. Bacteria require an anaerobic environment to ferment forage. The target density for a bunker silo is about 40-45 pounds of fresh forage, or 14-16 pounds of dry matter per cubic foot.
Finally, sealing and covering is essential to ensure good fermentation, according to Ramirez. Producers should try to utilize a plastic cover specifically designed for use on silage piles that is at least 4-mil thick.
ISU Extension and Outreach beef and dairy specialists are available to help producers with silage production and feeding.