Will you chop corn silage this year? Do it right and time your harvest correctly.

Corn development and maturity is highly variable this year due to all the problems with spring rains. If you always chop silage on about the same date, how will that affect your corn silage?

Harvest timing is critical for success. Timing needs to be based on moisture content of the silage. Silage chopped too early and wetter than 70 percent moisture can run or seep and it often produces a sour, less palatable fermentation. We often get this wet silage when we rush to salvage wind or hail-damaged corn or when we chop late-planted corn with immature grain. Live green stalks, leaves, and husks almost always are more than 80 percent moisture, so wait until these tissues start to dry before chopping.

In our region, normal corn is often chopped for silage too dry, below 60 percent moisture. Dry silage is difficult to pack adequately to force out air. This silage heats, energy and protein digestibility declines, and spoilage increases. If your silage usually is warm or steams during winter, it probably was too dry when chopped.

Many corn hybrids are between 60 to 70 percent moisture after corn kernels dent and reach the one-half to three-quarters milkline. This guide isn’t perfect for all hybrids, though, so check your own fields independently.

Corn kernels in silage between black layer and half milkline are more digestible. Drier, more mature corn grain tends to pass through the animal more often without digesting unless kernels are well processed. Also, older leaves and stalks are less digestible.

So chop your silage at the proper moisture level this year. The outcome will be better feed and better profits.

Bruce Anderson is a hay and forage professor at Nebraska Extension.

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