Corn silage might be less digestible this year

Jim Dickrell
Farm Journal
It's important for farmers to test silage for starch and digestibility levels this year.

A delayed corn silage harvest due to wet conditions in parts of the Midwest have resulted in corn silage being less digestible than normal, says Maurice Eastridge, a dairy specialist with Ohio State University.

“Since August 2018, we have experienced about 2.3” additional rainfall compared to 2017,” he says. “Especially notable in this time period is the 5.4” of rain in August when corn silage harvest began in several areas.”

The result is corn silage harvested at greater maturity, higher dry matters and harder corn kernels, which in turn can cause lower starch digestibility. In fact, some 7,500 corn silage sample submitted to Cumberland Valley Analytical labs in the mid-Atlantic area show 7-hour starch digestible tests averaging 67.4%, or 5 percentage points lower than average.

It’s critical you test corn silage to see what its starch and digestibility levels are. If they are lower than normal, consider the following, suggests Eastridge:

1. Can the corn silage be left in storage longer before feeding? Longer storage time may increase starch digestibility. Are there economical options for lowering the inclusion level in the diet of the corn silage with lower digestibility?

2. If feeding rates are adequate for having two storage units for corn silage open, feed the lower digestibility silage to later lactation cows and growing heifers.

3. With the wet field conditions and corn being in the field longer for damage to kernels, be watchful for signs of molds that produce mycotoxins.

“Reprinted by permission of Farm Journal media, December 2018”