Dairy Pipeline: December 2003
Extension Area Dairy Agent,
For many dairymen, this year's corn crop was challenging. Making milk from it may be an even greater challenge. One of the most important steps in producing quality corn silage is harvesting at the proper time. The combination of a cool, wet spring, which delayed planting and slowed growth, an early frost, and a hurricane, resulted in very poor harvest conditions. As a result, many dairymen made corn silage with frosted corn. The feeding value of silage made from frosted corn depends partly on its maturity at harvest. For some producers, it's business as usual; but for others the effect has already been felt in the bulk tank. In these cases, frequent testing of the silage is the key to survival. Dry matter, energy, protein, fiber, and digestibility vary greatly depending on the degree of maturity in which the corn silage was harvested. The early frost may have forced the harvesting of immature corn for silage. The quality of this silage depends on just how immature the corn was. Very immature corn may have slightly higher fiber and protein and slightly lower energy and digestibility than more mature corn silage. However, if only slightly immature, it may test close to normal for energy, protein, and fiber levels with a slightly higher digestibility than "normal" corn silage. Corn harvested too dry may cause palatability problems compounded by low NDF digestibility.