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