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Sept. 15, 2011 issue: Silage Season 2011

Published on 15 September 2011

0111fg_silage_1Do you do any testing on your silage once it’s in the pile or bunker? What are you looking for when you test? How do you incorporate the silage into your ration?

Corn silage harvest is underway in most parts of the country, so we wanted to start looking ahead. We asked our producers about testing their silage once it is in the pile or bunker and how they incorporate it into their feed ration. It was quite obvious that testing is a very important part of silage production, something none of them would do without.

It will be interesting to see how this silage season ends up. Most of our producers are experiencing lower yields and quite dry conditions. How did things end up for you this year? E-mail your answers to and we’ll share them in an upcoming issue.

0111fg_silage_3Jeff Handschke
Sugar Creek Dairy • New London, Wisconsin

We test our corn silage on the way into the bunker, just to get an idea on the net energy level and the starches. We also test for digestibility on the way out.

I then put it on an inventory chart so we can test as we are feeding it in case at any time there may be a change in quality or moisture.

In ideal years (this year probably won’t be ideal) it will be the same from front to back with no change. We only plant two varieties of corn silage and try to fill as rapidly as possible, so hopefully there isn’t too much variation.

0211fg_silage_1Rodney Elliott
Drumgoon Dairy • Lake Norden, South Dakota

We test our silage every week (coming out the pile). We’re looking at dry matter and adjusting according to the nutritional need in our rations.

We’re also looking at starch levels because they will change according to where we are in the pile. And we’re looking for molds and toxins, especially in the spring time.

If our dry matters suddenly go down, we adjust and add more silage to the ration. If dry matter goes up, we’ll take some silage out of the ration.

Chris Sukalski
Reiland Farms • LeRoy, Minnesota

0111fg_silage_2We need to know the nutrient content of our forages not only to maximize their use for a cost-effective ration, but also to help us make proper decisions on what to incorporate into our ration.

The results also provide us with feedback on our variety selection and harvest and storage management.

We test for protein, fiber levels, digestibility of fiber and, for corn silage, starch level and digestibility. We also look at the fermentation of the forages, as well as minerals, ash, fat and protein.

We don’t begin testing forages until we are ready to use them. When we open a pile and start blending the new forage into the ration, we take a sample early enough so that we have results back in time to ensure a smooth transition from the old to the new-crop forage.

We also test if we notice major changes in moisture or quality, or if the cows tell us something has changed.

0111fg_silage_4Keith Dawydko
Anchor Farms, Inc. • Clarence, New York

We do test our silage after it has had time to ferment. The test we do includes dry matter (DM), protein, acid detergent fiber (ADF), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), total digestible nutrients (TDN), carbohydrates, energy and micros. We look for low ADF and NDF levels and the protein around 9 percent.

After we have this information we can input the corn silage into our ration as needed. We will feed as much corn silage and haylage as we can.

The better the forages, the more we feed. The group of animals we are feeding, the analysis of the forages and the balance of the ration will determine the percentage of corn silage to be added.

Ray Robinson
Moo Mountain Milk and East Ridge Milk • Burley, ID

If we don’t conduct regular tests, it can affect the health of our cows and, ultimately, our bottom line. We run a 30-hour digestibility test on all our silages using in-vitro, or wet chemistry, but on dry hay, we just do NIR analysis for digestibility.

0111fg_silage_5There are several specific things we look for as far as results, but digestibility, protein and energy are the most important for our operation.

We pull forage to test as it’s coming out of the field, but we also go into the bunker and test every 30 to 45 days to check the feed value.

We work closely with our nutritionist and give him all forage analysis results and rely on him to advise us if any adjustments need to be made.

For example, last year, our starch levels were a bit low so we compensated by adding more starch product into the ration and the cows did well on it. Without forage testing, we wouldn’t have known there was an issue until it was too late.