2011 Michigan corn silage variety trials

Summaries of the 2011 corn silage variety trials will be of special interest to dairy producers.

Corn silage plays a major role in most dairy cow diets, so both quality and value are of special interest to producers. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension has recently released the 2011 Michigan Corn Hybrids Compared bulletin. These 2011 field trials compare corn hybrids grown in multiple maturity zones throughout Michigan. The results include not only yields of forage dry matter, but also quality traits such as in vitro dry matter digestibility, neutral detergent fiber (NDF), NDF digestibility and crude protein. Remember, dry matter yield is not the only important factor. NDF digestibility is one of the most important measurements. It can directly correlate to milk production and cannot be made up for in grain supplementation.

Remember too, that genetics are important, but so is the growing environment. If corn suffers drought and/or heat stress, early or late in the growing season, the nutritional analysis and yield of the corn will be affected.

Selecting a hybrid, growing and harvesting the crop are still only part of the effort to feed high quality forage. A close look at the bunker silage pile during the winter could provide useful information as to how well the pile was covered in the fall. The wet weather these past few months has served as a magnifying glass for the issue of whether or not the silage or haylage was covered adequately. Corn silage is valued nearly twice the price of just a few years ago due to grain price increases. The higher value of stored forage crops makes covering them correctly even more important. I have seen several piles recently where settling has occurred, and the plastic covering has moved away from the edges, allowing excess rain to penetrate on the sides. Remember, if even 2’ of spoilage is occurring on each side of a bunker, this can equate to thousands of dollars’ worth of lost feed.

In addition, if this spoiled feed is accidentally mixed into the milking herd diet, performance and intake will suffer. It may be too late to change things now, but taking a close look today can serve as a reminder to change covering practices next year. Consider draping the plastic covering completely over the edges of the bunker walls and anchoring securely with tires or bags of sand. Also, look at the face of your silage. It should be a clean cut and vertical in order to prevent air infiltration and shed rain. Consider a silage facer as an investment in order to prevent excess feed spoilage.

The silage trials results can be found at MSU‘s crop and soil sciences website.

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