This fall has proven to be a challenge for farmers and ranchers. There are concerns that the silage corn that is standing is drying past the desired moisture levels for chopping. Ideally, silage corn should be chopped when the plant is between 32 and 38 percent dry matter. Consistent rains have proven it difficult to chop silage. If the silage that is being chopped is above 40 percent dry matter, consider the following:

  • Consider reducing the chopping length. This helps release more moisture from the plant.

  • A kernel processor can help improve digestibility since digestibility of corn reduces as it matures.

  • Silage inoculant may improve fermentation.

  • Use heavy tractors to pack the pile. Pack the pile six inches at a time to help improve the compaction.

  • Keep the wettest forage for the top layer of the pile for sealing. Adding water to the top layer of pile may also help with this.

  • Tightly cover the pile with an oxygen barrier such as silage plastic to keep the pil as anaerobic as possible.

Chopping earlage can be another option for ranchers. Earlage is ensiled corn grain, cobs, husks and sometimes the upper portion of the stalk. It is higher in energy than corn silage with similar protein content but it has lower energy than dry or high-moisture corn grain. Earlage can be harvest with a silage chopper with a snapper head or a combine with an all-crop header.

Whether making silage or earlage, packing the pile properly is important for fermentation to reduce spoilage from mold development. Also, watch for moldly corn ears and stalk molds during chopping that can contaminate the pile. Fermentation will not reduce toxin levels of moldy corn or stalks going into a silage or earlage pile.

For more information, contact the Stutsman County Extension office at 701-252-9030 or e-mail Alicia at alicia.harstad@ndsu.edu.