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Silage

Plan your silage production from seed selection to harvest and packing the pile with tips from these ag professionals.

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Corn silage is a very challenging crop to feed, analyze in the laboratory and to sort fact-from-fiction with regards to selecting the best genetics for individual dairy enterprises. The challenge begins with corn silage being a “TMR plant” consisting of a grass plant with high-moisture corn attached. This raises issues ranging from more potential for sub-sampling errors in obtaining representative samples, to the energy availability being highly influenced by the degree of kernel damage.

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Feeding adequate quantities of high-quality forages is the basis of profitable milk and livestock production. Forage production, harvest, storage and feed practices have changed greatly over the past 50 years, and silage has become a staple forage.

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When attempting to price corn silage there are several methods that have been used to arrive at silage values. Many issues need to be addressed in a pricing system, including:

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Traditionally, silage production in the United States has consisted of precision-chopping a standing row crop (corn) or a swathed forage (alfalfa, red clover, small grains, etc.) and subsequently storing the chopped forage in tower- or bunker-type silos. During the last 20 years, high-quality plastics have been adapted to provide a new storage system for precision-chopped silage. In this system, silage is fed into a machine, often called a “bagger,” that packs the silage into long plastic tubes which serve as temporary silos.

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Regardless of the size of an operation, dairy producers know problems occur in every silage program. This [article] describes possible causes and solutions for eight common pitfalls, which include.

Dairy producers (and their nutritionist) should discuss these problems and solutions with everyone on their silage team as a reminder to implement the best possible silage management practices.

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Warmer weather can bring a whole new set of issues related to silage quality and feeding value, which affect dry matter intake (DMI) by high-producing cows. During warmer weather, the tendency for growth of any yeast and bacteria present on the plants before ensiling increases greatly compared to their growth in cooler weather. Silo management or feeding may need to be altered to minimize these problems.

Yeasts are normally present on plants as they grow in the field. These multiply to some extent while crops are wilting in the windrow (in the case of haylage) or after chopping and before air exclusion in the silo (in the case of silage). Limiting the growth of these unwanted species of single-celled organisms is one of the reasons we stress packing silage quickly and completely.

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