Silage corn hybrids can produce significant dry matter yield, even if you had to plant in late June or early July. The University of Wisconsin Extension estimates yield of at least 5 tons of dry matter per acre, depending on growing conditions, when silage corn is planted by July 15.
However, capturing maximum nutritional value with late-planted corn means harvest management and silage storage are even more critical. Harvest timing may likely be before the corn ears have a chance to fully mature, reducing starch content by up to 50%. As you gear up for harvest, double-check your plans before, during and after so you can adjust and maximize most of your crop in a shorter growing season.
- Sharpen chopper knives.
- Check kernel processor condition for optimum processing.
- Order new oxygen-barrier surface covers to minimize losses.
- Monitor whole-plant moisture and have your team in place to harvest at 66% to 68% moisture.
While silage is being chopped, Todd Follendorf, dairy consultant and owner of Cornerstone Dairy Nutrition, Inc. in Dane, Wisconsin, recommends you and your nutritionist:
- Check the quality of kernel processing throughout harvest, using either a float test or a Penn State Particle Separator box, and adjust as needed.
- Use a quality bacterial inoculant to help speed up fermentation and reduce overall dry matter shrink.
Once harvest is done, focus on assessing the crop in the bunker and adjusting accordingly.
- Perform a forage analysis — including a dry matter, Neutral Detergent Fiber, NDF digestibility, starch, seven-hour starch digestibility and fermentation analysis — prior to feeding new crop corn silage.
- Run a kernel processing score after the silage has been put away to determine how well it was processed.
- After fermentation, have your nutritionist check for mold and mycotoxins.
- Consider carryover and cow groupings to maximize the value of feedstuffs.
- If possible, plan to establish three months of silage in next year’s growing season to provide a consistent foundational feedstuff for your herd.
- House first-calf heifers separately from mature cows as they will be more productive and less stressed, even if they are being fed the same ration. Then, you can group cows by lactation stage and use changing dietary needs as an advantage.
- In addition to your feed rations, establish proper cow management, comfortable beds, low stocking density and a good reproduction program to help achieve maximum milk production performance.
No matter what the growing season might look like, taking time to evaluate harvest plans, rations and feeding practices year-round helps ensure you capture as much nutritional value as possible and optimize success on your farm.