Pennsylvania: Harvesting Corn Silage – 4 Tips for Inadequate Moisture

Corn silage harvest. Photo: Penn State Extension

Getting into the field at the proper time to chop silage can be a challenge, regardless of year and weather conditions, but with extreme wet conditions the challenges can multiply. If not monitored closely, corn can go from ideal moisture to too dry, increasing the risk of storage losses.

After fields dry and equipment can safely enter, it is important to remember that corn is drying quickly as well. Silage harvested below the optimal moisture content can be difficult to pack and lead to a failure in excluding air to ensure proper fermentation, resulting in molding and heating of the forage, in turn reducing quality.

In the case of chopping silage that has become drier than the optimal moisture according to your storage facility, there are some management recommendations that can aid in ensuring proper fermentation and quality of your forage.

  • Decreasing length of cut and creating a finer particle helps to promote better packing and increases the digestibility of the kernel. However, when the particle size is smaller due to a finer chop, rations should be modified to ensure adequate digestive fiber.
  • Water can be uniformly added to dry silage to increase moisture content to aid in proper fermentation. When adding water to silage, the fill rate of most silos should be slowed due to slow water flows from most garden hoses and to ensure uniform water distribution.
  • Liquid inoculant additives can be used to promote aerobic stability, such as propionic acid and Lactobacillus buchneri, and decrease mold growth. These inoculants should be added at concentrations based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Kernel processing helps to pack silage more densely which can lead to better stability of aerobic organisms, thereby helping to aid in proper fermentation, as well as boosting the forage quality by increasing starch digestibility of the kernel, which could be a problem in dry silage.

Corn silage samples collected in Southeastern PA show the progression of dry down at various farms and planting dates:

Hybrid DOP RM PPA Milk Line
Sept. 13
Moisture
Sept. 13
Milk Line
Sept. 17
Moisture
Sept. 17
Pioneer PO843AM May 8 108 34k 0.3 66 0.10 62
Pioneer P0843 May 28 108 36k 0.5 68 0.25 64
Growmark FS 58R47 May 8 108 36k 0.2 60 0.00 58
Seedway 6630 Gen SSRIB May 8 110 32k 0.0 58 0.00 54

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