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Tips to help improve silage quality

BROOKINGS — Most dairy herds throughout the U.S. depend upon corn silage.

To ensure good storage and fermentation, Karla Hernandez, SDSU Extension forages field specialist, said that corn for silage should typically be harvested between 60 to 70 percent moisture.

Moisture estimate

A very basic estimate of whole plant moisture for harvest can be made using the kernel milk line. The kernel milk line is the dividing line between sugars in the maturing kernel and starch deposited. “Most producers in South Dakota will use the one-third milk line as the point to start checking moisture,” Hernandez said.

“Therefore, harvesting corn silage too early at less than 30 percent dry matter will result in lower starch concentration,” she said.

Factors affecting shrink losses

• Type of structure: Bunkers usually have the greatest shrink.

• Chop length: Finely chopped forages are better. Overall, corn silage should be chopped very fine (1/4 in to 3/8 in).

• Rate of filling: Slow filling will reduce the rate of fermentation. One problem with shrink losses is the air trapped inside the silage. This will promote yeasts and mold causing serious problems to the fi nal product.

• Covering the silage: Covering a bunker with plastic is the best choice to reduce shrink losses. Cover quickly after the bunker has been filled.

— Source: SDSU Extension