Feeding the best possible forage is every dairy producer’s goal, because it sets the stage for productivity and profitability on the dairy. Producers need to anticipate and plan for many variables as they plant, grow, chop and feed corn silage. That starts with evaluating their corn silage program and considering a few key management needs along the way.
Preserving the quality of your forage starts on Day 1 of the season.
Compaction from the cool, wet season we’ve experienced will create a challenge for crop emergence in many fields. Seeds could be malformed, have misshapen root walls and be flattened on the sides as a result of compaction. Look for seedlings with white and healthy roots. In fields that encounter emergence issues, scout sections to determine the impact of plants lost and how it will affect tonnage at harvest. Consult with your agronomist to determine the best approach to replanting as needed.
Continue scouting through the season
Controlling insect pests is essential to maximize stalk quality and yield potential. Stay ahead of heavy infestations and review your field’s history of insect pressures. Work with your agronomist to combat common threats, such as black cutworm, western bean cutworm, European corn borer, fall armyworm and corn rootworm. If you’re in the West, also check for spider mites.
Build the right plan for harvest
It’s never too early to start planning corn silage harvest. Create a plan now so you’re ready when your crops are and you can use your time efficiently. Consider hybrid maturities, growing degree units (GDUs) and weather conditions to estimate when the time will be right to get in the field.
Corn moisture levels are the primary factor in determining when you can harvest. Start checking moisture levels 32 to 35 days after full tassel or pollination. In general, across all hybrids and storage structure types, we recommend harvesting at 35% dry matter to preserve the silage quality you worked hard to protect all season. Harvesting when silage is too wet will cause loss of crucial nutrients due to leaching. Harvest when corn is too dry and you will lose leaves; lose starch and fiber digestibility; and potentially experience poor packing, which can compromise the fermentation process.
Invest in high-quality hybrids
You can’t feed a top-tier corn silage without starting with the best genetics and seed technology on the market. Digestibility should be top of mind when you select your corn silage hybrids. The more digestible the hybrid, the more help you have in keeping your bottom line in the black.
Consult your local agronomist to scout fields, review disease pressures and manage your fields to grow a high-quality corn silage crop this season.
Art Graves is a Commercial Agronomist for Mycogen Seeds. He can be contacted at [email protected]
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