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Corn silage is an excellent source of energy and fiber for dairy and beef cows. However, growing, harvesting, and storing corn silage has a significant impact on the overall quantity and quality of the silage.
Brown midrib (BMR) products
Leafy and floury-leafy products
Important Variables in Dairy Quality Silage
While there are well over 30 different variables that are and can be quantified with a laboratory analysis of silage; dry matter (DM), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), in vitro neutral detergent fiber digestibility (IVNDFD), and starch are the essential measures for evaluating corn silage quality. The single most important aspect in harvesting silage is the moisture level of the plant. If it is too dry, the silage will not pack well enough to allow for proper anaerobic fermentation. If it is to wet, the product may undergo excessive fermentation, reducing pH and increasing acetic acid. This could result in less intake of the product. High seepage loss associated with this situation, will reduce nutrient value and may cause environmental concerns.
Dry Matter is:
Neutral Detergent Fiber is:
In Vitro Neutral Detergent Fiber Digestibility is:
The relative maturity of a corn product that is being planned for silage, is usually about 5 to10 units higher than one that is being used for grain. Other agronomic factors like tillage system, soil type and susceptibility to plant disease should also be considered. Placement and in season management for a product being grown for silage would be the same as if that product was being grown for grain. A consideration should be made for insect management, particularly the corn rootworm complex. Because the product being grown for silage may have a longer relative maturity, corn rootworm beetles in the late summer can be attracted to it as a later maturity product will be flowering later. Thus, corn rootworm larval populations in these fields can be significantly higher than corn with an earlier relative maturity the following year. Some brown mid-rib products have a lower tolerance to fungal diseases of corn and may require an application of fungicide to prevent losses, which should be considered when choosing a product.
Corn planted in narrow rows (15 inches) as compared to (30 inches) yielded about a ton more per acre, but IVNDFD was slightly lower and NDF had a slight increase with increasing populations.2 The twin row planting does increase silage yield over conventional 30 inch rows, but other quality parameters are not influenced.3
Figure 1. Influence of plant population on silage yield. From Cusicanqui, J. A. and Lauer, J. 1999. Plant density and hybrid influence on corn forage yield and quality. Agronomy. Journal . 91:911-915.
Figure 2. Influence of plant population on silage quality. From Cusicanqui, J. A. and J. G. Lauer. 1999. Plant density and hybrid influence on corn forage yield and quality. Agronomy. Journal 91:911-915.p>