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Making Good Quality Corn Silage

Corn silaging season has started 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.

Tip #1: Check the moisture

  • Ideal whole plant moisture for corn silage harvest: 62-68% moisture (38-32% dry matter)
    • 62-68% moisture range can correlate with ½ to ¾ milk line progression, but doing a harvest sample is the best way to check whole plant moisture before cutting an entire field
  • Different storage methods will require different ideal whole plant moistures for optimal ensiling conditions
  • Approximate corn silage dry-down rate: 0.5%/day
    • Environmental conditions and hybrid characteristics can influence the dry down rate

Tip #2: Get the right chop length

  • Target a theoretical length of cut (TLC) (aka target chop length) of ½ to 3/4”
  • Silage chopped at the TLC will pack more firmly and result in increased palatability
    • Particles cut that are too course 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 than 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 too avoid the development of air pockets between layers

Tip #4: Cover the silage pit quickly

  • 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
  • Use oxygen barrier film and UV resistant plastic to cover the full bunker as quickly as possible
    • Large bunkers can talk 1-2 days to fill
    • Covering and sealing the bunker reduces dry matter loss and spoilage risk
  • Once covered, weight down the plastic barrier – tires are commonly used

Tip #5: 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

September CHU (Corn Heat Unit) Update

May 1 - Sept 11, 2021
Manitoba Saskatchewan Alberta
Carman | 2466 Weyburn | 2492 Barnwell | 2415
Brandon | 2444 Saskatoon | 2413 Oyen | 2388
Altona | 2664 Moose Jaw | 2429 Red Deer | 2172

Further Reading

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