Four Silage Challenges From The 2019 Corn Growing Season

It’s no secret the 2019 corn silage season was challenging. Many producers saw delayed planting turn into late harvest, which resulted in tough decisions about the best time to ensile their forages. Understanding the conditions during the growing season can help producers manage expectations for the resulting feed and properly balance rations.

  • Late corn planting: Due to the late start, the time of harvest was inevitably one to two months late, which likely meant harvesting immature, possibly frost-damaged or frozen corn.
  • Weather conditions during harvest: Producers may be seeing more soil contamination due to excessive precipitation. As a result, we can expect to see high ash values. Soil also harbors undesirable microorganisms, such as clostridia, fungi and enterobacteria, which can negatively impact the fermentation.
  • Early-harvested corn: Producers often opted to harvest early to beat the frost and snow. Early harvests, with moisture levels higher than 70%, can lead to increased run-off (seepage) and an extensive, prolonged fermentation. This can result in a high acid load that may depress feed intake.
  • Late-harvested corn: If temperatures were low enough to kill the plant, it could have led to dry ensiling and looser compaction. Also, frosted kernels are more susceptible to fungal infestation and can lead to mycotoxin production.

Many of these challenges may have affected fermentation and resulted in spoilage. If you see any signs of spoilage, avoid the temptation to feed the spoiled silage. Feeding even small amounts of spoiled silage can lead to reproduction and respiratory problems, herd health issues, reduced feed intake and decreased production. Furthermore, feeding spoiled silage has been shown to damage the rumen mat – where fiber degradation in cattle occurs. When rumen function is impaired, cattle aren’t able to absorb nutrients from any feed sources well. Consider using feed additives to help optimize rumen performance, and especially ones that help maintain lower-gut health. This is particularly important if high levels of molds and mycotoxins are present. Keeping these factors in mind will allow cattle to achieve the best performance possible according to their genetic potential.

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Article contributed by Lallemand Animal Nutrition

How To Maximize Your Winter Forage

Winter forage crops provide the earliest and the highest quality forage. Now is the time to add nitrogen and critical sulfur, so you can save on soybean meal by harvesting high protein forage.

For any nitrogen application to winter forage or to intensively managed grasses, sulfur is critical for protein formation. As you can see in the graph at the right, adding extra nitrogen without sulfur only results in 12% crude protein. Adding a lesser amount of nitrogen with sulfur resulted in 17% crude protein. For a field that did not receive manure last fall (a major sulfur source) an effective ratio is roughly 1 lb. of sulfur for every 10 lbs. of nitrogen. A mix of 1500 pounds of urea (treated with an anti-volatilization agent) mixed with 500 pounds of ammonium sulfate will give you approximately 40-0-0-6S. This mix is also perfect for all cool season grasses, in addition to the winter forage grains such as triticale.

Sulfur is also critical on corn and especially on the sorghum which can produce much higher protein in the forage. For winter forages, research found that even with manure incorporated immediately before planting in the fall, adding nitrogen in the spring was still needed. The fertilizer did not increase the spring yield on manured ground, but raised the crude protein in the triticale from 9% to over 19%. This shift provided a 3 to 1 payback on the nitrogen fertilizer through soy meal savings.

It is common for farms to apply 75 to 100 lbs. nitrogen/acre (N/a) in the spring. Even with manure before planting, we are suggesting to increase this to at least 125 lbs. N/a to boost protein and save on soybean meal. Remember, a 3 ton dry matter yield at flag leaf (easily achieved with on-time planting), will remove 192 lbs. of N/a at 20% crude protein. What is not used by the present winter forage will still be used by the next planted crop.

Do not apply nitrogen on snow covered ground. Losses were as high as
44% with an average of 26.3% loss when applied to cold or frozen surfaces, especially if they have some snow on them. It is highly suggested to add an anti-volatilization agent like, N-Fixx XLR, even under low temperatures in the spring. This will inhibit the urease enzyme from splitting the urea into ammonia that then could be lost. Treated urea loss was 63% less than the untreated in the same field. The anti-volatilization compound increases the chance of full return on your fertilizer money.

Finally, you want to harvest at flag leaf stage (stage 9) for optimum quality at high yield. Stage 8 does not have higher quality than 9 and had a substantial yield penalty from harvesting to soon. If temperatures are normal to warm, then you need to push to harvest at stage 9, flag leaf stage. Conversely, if it is at stage 8, you have a sunny day, and a week of rain foretasted, get it cut so you have quality forage. Ask your Northside Agronomist to consult on effective solution for your farm.

–Content for this article is contributed by Thomas Kilcer, Certified Crop Advisor, Cornell University

Helpful Article References:

Kansas State University: Effect Of Level Of Surface-Spoiled Silage On The Nutritive Value Of Corn Silage-Based Rations
Mississippi State University: Overcoming Challenges to Plant the 2019 Corn Crop
Progressive Farmer: 2019 Corn Harvest: Will It Ever End?

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