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    Making Good Quality Corn Silage

    October 2, 2020 Sara Meidlinger

    Corn silaging season is quickly approaching in the Canadian Prairies. As this is a busy time for farmers and retails, below are a few quick tips to consider when cutting your corn silage crop.

    Tips #1: Harvest at the correct moisture

    • Ideal whole plant moisture for harvest: 62-68% moisture (38-32% dry matter).

    • 62-68% moisture range can correlate with 1/2 to 3/4 milk line progression, but doing a harvest sample is the best way to check whole plant moisture before cutting the whole field

    • Different storage methods will require different ideal whole plant moistures for optimal ensiling conditions

    • Approximate dry-down rate: 0.5%/day

    Tip #2: Get the right chop length

    • The theoretical length of cut (TLC) also known as target chop length: 1/2” to 3/4”

    • Silage chopped at the TLC will pack more firmly and have increased palatability for livestock

    • Particles that are cut too coarse will reduce packing efficiency and can cause silage to spoil due to poor fermentation

    • Particles cut too fine can reduce palatability and is a less effective source of roughage

    Tip #3: Packing the pit properly

    • The purpose of packing the pit is to remove excess oxygen that can inhibit the ensiling process.

    • Typical rule of thumb: 800lbs of tractor for every ton of silage delivered to the pit per hour

    • Want to pack approx. 6” of silage particles at a time to avoid the development of air pockets between layers


    Tip #4: Consider using bacterial inoculants

    • The ensiling process relies on bacteria to produce lactic acid to “pickle” the silage and prevent the silage from spoiling and minimize loss

    • Lactic acid-producing bacteria occur naturally on the chopped silage, but other bacteria are also present and are competing for the resources the lactic acid-producing bacteria require to “pickle” the chopped silage.

    • These bacteria work in anaerobic conditions which is why getting the right chop length and good packing is critical

    • Lactic acid-producing bacterial inoculants are alive and inactive until rehydrated with moisture from the chopped silage (one of numerous critical reasons for ideal harvest moistures) and can greatly improve ensiling process

    >> Consider this: Bacterial inoculants may have a greater benefit on corn silage particles that are immature, damaged from heat and drought stress or has had exposure to heavy frost

    • Depending on the operation, a Lactic acid-producing bacteria inoculant may not be necessary but a heterofermenting bacteria (L. buchneri) can be used to increase improve bunk face management