As the silage crop in Ontario moves away from pollination and towards the grain filling period, harvest management is something that should be taken into consideration, because harvest could only be about one month away. Once the corn crop has initiated flowering you can begin to estimate the number of days to harvest (assuming the silage crop is harvested close to ½ milk line) by simply using an average factor of 45 days to harvest(1). With a high percentage of the silage crop throughout Ontario flowering in the last two weeks of July and the first week of August, this puts the harvest at the latter part of September.
During the month prior to harvest there are a few management strategies that will be discussed in this article to ensure you achieve the best silage quality. The strategies covered are:
- The importance of consistent whole plant moisture level in the silo
- Staging fields for harvest
- Methods of testing whole plant moisture levels prior to harvest.
The Importance of consistent whole plant moisture levels:
You have already made the investment in planting the right corn silage hybrid for your field's yield environment and the feed management in your ration to maximize the profitability out of the feed grown on farm. To continue to maximize the return on this investment it is very important to keep a consistent whole plant moisture level during harvest. If you do not manage your whole plant moisture level properly you can drastically decrease the cows' intake of feed, which in turn decreases milk or beef products, which is money you will never get back.
Silage that is cut too wet incurs a yield loss due to a higher moisture content in the whole plant, which ends up running out of the silo or bunker during the ensiling process. Wet silage can also produce a sour tasting silage which in turn causes decreased feed intake(1). Conversely, silage cut too dry reduces yield due to the lack of moisture content in the whole plant. Dry silage also causes heating and mold to form within the silo(1), which is caused by poorly packed silage that allows for more oxygen to be present in a anaerobic environment (biological process that occurs without the presence of oxygen) which is crucial during the ensiling process.
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