Corn silage is a high-quality forage crop that is used on many dairy farms and on some beef cattle farms in Tennessee. Its popularity is due to the high yield of a very digestible, high-energy crop, and the ease of adapting it to mechanized harvesting and feeding. Corn for silage fits ideally into no-till and double-cropping programs. The object of silage making is to preserve the harvested crop by anaerobic (without oxygen) fermentation. This process uses bacteria to convert soluble carbohydrates into acetic and lactic acid, which “pickles” the crop. In a well-sealed silo, it can be stored for long periods of time without losing quality. To produce high-quality corn silage, it is important to do a good job in growing, harvesting and preserving the crop.
Corn Silage Additives
Corn that is chopped for silage will generally ensile very efficiently. The high level of carbohydrates helps ensure that an abundance of lactic acid for preservation will be produced. If conditions for chopping or storing the silage are not ideal, fermentation may be delayed, causing a loss in forage quality. In these situations, silage additives have been recommended to improve the fermentation of the silage. It is important to remember that silage additives are not a replacement for good management. Paying attention to moisture content, chopping, packing, etc., still are the most important factors when producing corn silage. Three types of compounds that can generally be added to corn silage when it is going into a silo are:
- Bacterial inoculants
- Non-protein nitrogen sources.
Corn silage is a high-quality feed that contains a high concentration of energy. It yields a high tonnage per acre, is easy to mechanically mix and feed, and can be preserved for long periods of time. Paying attention to the details listed above on growing, harvesting and storing silage will help ensure a valuable, high-quality crop.