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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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Rainfall or runoff from melting snow can impact a feeder’s ability to correctly feed dairy cattle. Added water from precipitation or runoff decreases silage dry matter (DM) content. In these situations, more silage must be fed to meet an animal’s nutrient requirements for production. Failure to adjust feeding rate has potential economic consequences, especially when high levels of silage are fed and substantial amounts of water has been added. First, dry matter intake (DMI) decreases because the ration includes more water and less actual feed nutrients. Second, average milk production decreases because of reduced energy intake from the ration. Third, milk fat may decrease because of altering the forage-to-concentrate ratio (less fiber from forage and proportionately more concentrate in diet).

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Forages are an integral component of the ration for dairy cows. The quality and consistency of the forage can have a significant impact on the production, profitability and health of the dairy cow. Forage quality can be extremely variable, based on hybrid or variety, area where grown, soil conditions, weather, harvesting, storage and feedout conditions.

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Corn silage production has changed dramatically in the last decade. Dairy expansion, the development of new corn hybrids specifically selected for forage yield and quality and new ideas for production and management have changed the view of farmers regarding the importance of silage to livestock production.

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One of the longest nights in dairying is the night before opening a new silo. Questions like “Did I get the moisture right? Did I pack tightly? Did I chop at correct length?” are asked over and over until somehow we finally manage to fall asleep.

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The goal of making silage is to preserve forage nutrients for feeding at a later date. This is accomplished by the conversion (by fermentation) of plant sugars to organic acids. The resulting acidity effectively “pickles” the forage. Production of quality silage requires minimum nutrient loss, despite the dynamic and sensitive process of silage fermentation. This process is controlled by five primary factors:

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University of Delaware researchers found increasing the cutting height of silage corn from 5 inches to just under 19 inches improved its nutritive value, but it reduced silage yield about 10 percent.

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