Corn Silage

Originally written February 1, 2006 | Last updated August 21, 2014

Background

Importance of Corn Silage to Wisconsin

Largest acreage and production among U.S. States

Used extensively in forage base for state dairy herds

Changing Wisconsin dairy production 'climate'

Wisconsin Corn Silage Consortium (Coors et al.)

Range for NDF and digestibility among commercial hybrids sold in Wisconsin is narrow.

Yield and quality differences among corn hybrids are repeatable.

Corn silage quality can be predicted using NIR

Corn Silage Compared to Other Forages

Advantages

Palatable forage

High dry matter yield and energy content

Consistent quality

Less labor and machinery (one harvest). Lower cost per ton of dry matter

Manure management

Flexibility, dual purpose

Disadvantages

Few established markets

Relatively low in protein

High transportation costs

Must be fed on or near farm

Expensive storage facilities

Limited production on erodible soils due to conservation requirements

What makes a good forage? (Carter et al., 1991)

High yield

High energy (high digestibility)

High intake potential (low fiber)

High protein

Proper moisture at harvest for storage

Ultimate test is animal performance - Milk2000 is our best predictor for performance (Schwab - Shaver equation)

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Hybrid Selection

Silage1.gif (13682 bytes) Silage7.gif (18737 bytes) Silage8.gif (18740 bytes) Silage9.gif (25939 bytes) Silage10.gif (12975 bytes) wpeB.gif (9750 bytes)

Criteria for Selecting Silage Hybrids

  • Grain yield: allows flexibility (dual purpose)
  • Whole plant silage yield
  • Relative maturity: 5-10 days later than grain hybrids
  • Standability: allows flexibility
  • Pest resistance
  • Silage quality

“Variation for silage yield and quality exists among commercial hybrids in Wisconsin.”

"Dual Purpose" Hybrids versus Silage Specific

Other silage Hybrids

  • High sugar
  • Waxy
  • High-oil
  • Leafy Corn
  • Bmr Corn
  • Tropical
  • Sweet corn

Silage Quality

wpe9.jpg (111386 bytes) bmrCorn.jpg (40458 bytes)

Bt versus Conventional hybrids 

Management Guidelines for Corn Silage

 wpe1.gif (11975 bytes) 

Silage yield and quality changes during corn growth and development

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Planting date response

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Plant density response

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Row spacing response

CornSilageChopper.jpg (131431 bytes) Silage21.gif (15506 bytes)

Cutting height response

wpe3.gif (13643 bytes)

When to Harvest

Harvest timing depends upon storage structure

Silage15.gif (15290 bytes)

Environment drydown rate average = 0.5% per day

wpe2F.gif (14702 bytes)

Kernel milkline: use as a guide

ISU48R5EarCrossSection.gif (108098 bytes) ISU48R5StarchLineDevelopment.gif (84825 bytes) Silage13.gif (26581 bytes)  

Predicting corn silage harvest date

wpe5.gif (10205 bytes) wpe7.gif (16003 bytes)

  • Planting date
  • Hybrid Relative Maturity
  • Silking date: add 42 to 47 days
  • Once kernel milkline begins to move measure whole-plant moisture and use drydown rate = 0.5% per day
  • Final check

Harvesting Stressed Corn

  • Frosted corn
  • Drought-stressed corn

Fermentation

Silage additives

Silage Preservation--The Role of Additives (A3544)

Storage structures

Further Reading

From Harvest to Feed: Understanding Silage Management Penn State University Circular (2003)


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