Corn Silage

Originally written February 1, 2006 | Last updated February 03, 2014

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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

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Bt versus Conventional hybrids 

Management Guidelines for Corn Silage

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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

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Cutting height response

wpe3.gif (13643 bytes)

When to Harvest

Harvest timing depends upon storage structure

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Environment drydown rate average = 0.5% per day

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Kernel milkline: use as a guide

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

Predicting corn silage harvest date

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  • 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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