Dairy School: How to make great corn silage

What are the keys to making great corn silage?

It’s really important to chop the crop at the right time to ensure you get the highest energy level possible,” says DuPont Pioneer dairy specialist Martina Pfister.

In this episode of the Dairy School, Pfister explains that many farmers chop their silage too early. “You really want to wait until the milk line is three-quarters,” says Pfister who offers tips on how to check milk line development and assess maturity to help farmers determine when to chop. Storage facilities also play a role in that decision. For example, growers who store silage in bunkers should target 62 to 68 percent moisture depending on the structure.

Pfister also offers insights on how to assess corn kernel processing and whether kernels are being sufficiently crushed to make starch available to cows.

Inoculants also play a important role in producing quality silage. Pfister explains that there are many inoculants available on the market and farmers have to determine what best fits the needs of their operation. She breaks inoculants into three categories: those that help reduce dry matter loss from fermentation; products that aid in fermentation, keep the feed cool and help aerobic stability; and a third category that assists with fermentation, reduces heating and also makes fibre more digestible.

The final step in making great silage is effective storage – it can make or break feed quality. “The key to good fermented silage is getting rid of the oxygen,” says Pfister. To keep oxygen out of the fermenting feed, she emphasizes the need for sufficient packing weight for tractors, filling in layers no larger than six inches and covering the crop as quickly as possible.

 

Bernard Tobin

Bernard Tobin is Real Agriculture's Ontario Field Editor. AgBern was raised on a dairy farm near St. John's, Newfoundland. For the past two decades, he has specialized in agricultural communications. A Ryerson University journalism grad, he kicked off his career with a seven-year stint as Managing Editor and Field Editor for Farm and Country magazine. He has received six Canadian Farm Writers' Federation awards for journalism excellence. He's also worked for two of Canada's leading agricultural communications firms, providing public relations, branding and strategic marketing. Bern also works for Guelph-based Synthesis Agri-Food Network and talks the Real Dirt on Farming.

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