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Making Good Quality Corn Silage

Corn silaging season has arrived across 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: 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 ½ to ¾ 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 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: 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 hetero-fermenting bacteria (L. buchneri) can be used to increase improve bunk face management

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: 

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Sara Meidlinger, Market Development Agronomist (Western Prairies), started with PRIDE Seeds in 2019 and is focused on growing the PRDIE Seeds portfolio across Western Canada. Sara maintains a field scale trial program across Western Saskatchewan and Alberta testing soybean varieties and corn hybrids for grain, silage and grazing purposes to track performance across the territory and highlight agronomic practices. Sara’s on-the-ground support helps growers pick the right corn hybrid for their operation, provides agronomic support and training, and assists the CANTERRA SEEDS team with sales meetings. 

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