If you’re in the position where you can’t increase corn dry matter to proper levels for storing, silage is likely your best option. There are a lot of important factors to consider.
Stage of Maturity Matters
Your corns’ stage of maturity makes a big impact on silage quality. As the kernel matures, fiber increases and protein and digestibility decreases.
Measuring moisture is crucial. Doing so not only increases the nutrient benefits in silage feed, but also ensures proper fermentation in storage.
A generally accepted rule for harvesting corn for silage is a moisture content of 65% - 70%. Many producers use the eyeball test, looking to see if the milk line is around 2/3 to 3/4 of the kernel.
Chopping up a few stalks of corn is a more accurate method. This will give you a complete picture of plant moisture. You can do this with any number of commercial testers or at home with a microwave and kitchen scale.
Taking the time to measure moisture accurately captures the most starch out of your kernel and leads to better success with silage. It will ferment better, you’ll experience less dry matter loss and have less spoilage.
Processing Kernels and Chopping the Right Size
Particle size has a big impact on silage quality. Without the right particle size, you risk losing feed quality and decrease the cow’s ability to utilize fuel energy from their feed.
Corn silage harvested with a chopper roller mill, or kernel processer, can improve your end results compared to corn harvested without a processor.
To ensure your equipment is performing at its peak, be sure to service your chopper before harvest, replace knives that are nicked and replace roller mills showing wear.
“It’s also important to work with your equipment dealer to make sure you have the right tools and settings for your job,” according to Global Equipment’s Helio Oliveira.
“With equipment, an eye to detail is everything. And with different crop conditions and feeding requirements around the world, it’s important to work with your whole ag and equipment team to pinpoint the precision you require for your operation,” says Oliveira.
With silage, it’s often recommended to take three different cup samples throughout the day to assess your grind. There are several simple charts and tools out there, which help you determine whether your kernel processing requires adjustments, using simple whole kernel versus half kernel counts.
Considerations for Packing Density and Sealing
The density of how you pack and seal your silage affects many things. If your density is affected by kernel size, chop length, delivery and time, you risk more oxygen being introduced. This slows the fermentation process and risks spoilage.
Moisture content, equipment condition, kernel size and tractor packing all contribute to whether you deliver the best quality silage.
If you’ve been attentive to these details, you also stand a better chance of successfully covering and sealing your pile. Plastic seals come in many shapes and sizes, but it’s important to be picky.
You want a proper thickness, resistant to tears and UV rays. Some plastics have oxygen limiting qualities. Many systems incorporate two layers. But even the best advancements can’t maximize a silage crop where details have been skipped.
Covering may be your most important step. Without proper weight applied to your pile, you risk air filtration that disrupts the chemical process. In addition, you risk threats from wind and rain.
Many producers use old tires, custom secured mesh covers and sand bag options, silage silos and more. Whichever option your operation demands, don’t skimp on the steps leading up to storage or in how you cover it.
Some Final Words About Safety
“Anyone working around heavy machinery should always be thinking safety first,” adds Oliveira. “The equipment itself must be respected and it’s important to not get in too big of a hurry, even when stressed by the time sensitive conditions required for a successful silage harvest.”
While packing, use caution to prevent machinery rollovers. Watch for avalanches and keep non-essential people away. Silo storage poses threats too, in terms of both collapses and silo gases. Keep children and other visitors away from your silo.
When it’s time to unpack and feed, always load from the top of the pile and move a safe distance away before transferring or taking samples.
Careful attention to all these considerations will avoid accidents and ensure quality silage for your best feeding and output results.
Global Equipment helps forage harvesters around the world make the best equipment choices for their operation. Learn more at global-equipment.com.