Harvesting Corn Silage
Take the time to do it right.
Harvesting corn silage, and taking the time to do it right, can reap tremendous benefits throughout the rest of the year. Utilize these tips from start to finish to capture higher quality.
1. Check Before You Chop
- Starting time should be determined by measuring whole plant dry matter – not kernel milk line. Check fields by cutting plants at chopper height and running chopped samples in a Koster moisture tester or with Reveal® analysis. You are ready to harvest when chopped samples are drier than 30% dry matter (DM). Milk lines have little relation to whole plant dry matter. Field Samples will be about two points drier than the silage from those fields when put into a bunker or pile.
- Tractors and truck tires need to be clean. Dirt from tires will inoculate with “bad bugs.
2. Begin Chopping
- Pay close attention to length and “clean-ness” of cut – keep the chopper tuned.
- No long leaves! Silage needs to be short enough to make TMRs with > 50% in the second from the top screen of a Penn State Particle Separator. Aim for 12 to 17 mm chop length, even shredlage!
- Take time to stop and adjust if chop length is not short enough or you are letting long leaves through.
3. Pay Attention to Processing
- ALL kernels should be destroyed and fit through the third screen from the top of a Penn State Particle Separator. No kernels above it. Stop and adjust rolls if the chopper is not processing well.
4. Pack with Precision
- Layers should be thin (<6 inches) and packed over and over.
Have enough tractor(s) to match loads. Density goal is more than 45 pounds per cubic foot as fed.
- Ex.: 10-ton loads coming 6 minutes apart is 100 tons per hour, so you will need at least (100 x 700 =) 70,000 pounds of tractor(s).
- If you only pack at the end of the day you are only doing the top layer. Do not move silage around; this is piling, and not actually packing. You need to pack each and every layer.
5. Cover and Seal
- As you build the pile, cover where you are done filling to keep air out.
- Using a product like Promote™ Storage-Mate can help limit chances of acetic acid when too wet, and mold when it is too dry.
- If you get moisture between 65 and 70% most of the time, use a product like one of the Promote Inoculants to reduce DM losses and save sugar.