Corn Crop Deteriorates As Drought Lingers

With parts of northern Missouri now in moderate to severe drought, here are some tips for making quality corn silage.

Published on: Sep 3, 2013

Warmer temperatures and lack of rainfall is deteriorating pasture and crop conditions in Missouri causing many farmers to consider, once again, to cut corn for silage.

As of Aug. 27, the U.S. Drought Monitor places farms in northern Missouri in an area under a moderate to severe drought conditions. Much like last year, farmers are contemplating whether to save some of the corn crop and cut it for silage.

Shawn Deering, MU livestock specialist for Gentry County put together a list of tips for farmers considering making corn silage:

-Harvest the corn plant at a stage of maturity that produces silage with 30% to 40% dry matter.

-Corn should be harvested for silage after the grain is well dented but before the leaves turn brown and dry.

With this summers warm, dry weather, many farmers, like last year, are considering cutting corn for silage. Here are some tips for anyone considering making corn silage.
With this summer's warm, dry weather, many farmers, like last year, are considering cutting corn for silage. Here are some tips for anyone considering making corn silage.

-Cut corn silage 3/8 to 1/2" long.

-Corn plants are traditionally cut 6" above the surface. Although cutting higher (12-18") will reduce yield 7-15%, the resultant silage will be higher in nutritive value since more of the undigestible fiber (mostly lignin) content will be left in the field. If nitrates are suspected, then cutting at 18" will result in silage that is lower in nitrates since the majority is found in the bottom 1/3 of the stalk.

-The importance of packing when filling a bunker silo cannot be over emphasized. Dry matter loss during storage increases when density of the silage decreases. As a rule, the packing tractor should run at least as many hours as the chopper.

-Covering horizontal silos with plastic as soon as possible after filling will help exclude air and reduce spoilage.

-Water should be added to forage with more than 50% dry matter to prevent the formation of tobacco-brown silage.

-The fermentation process is usually completed and the silage is ready to feed by three weeks after storage.

-Using silage is a way to salvage some feed from a drought-stricken corn crop that will yield little grain. In some studies, silage from drought-stricken corn yielding as little as 10 bushels per acre has been nearly equal in feed value on a dry-matter basis to silage from a normal crop. In other cases, drought silage has yielded much less nutritive value.

Deering and his fellow livestock specialists encourage producers to conduct a nutrient analysis on silage prior to feeding it. Running a test for nitrate levels may also be worthy of consideration.

Source: NW Missouri StockTalk