2022 Corn Silage: That’s a Wrap!
In my last blog in August, I wrote about critical control factors to maximize corn silage harvest from chop length to packing to help ensure a successful harvest. I hope that your harvest was a major success and bountiful for your dairy. So, now that it is done and fresh on your mind, what did you learn about this year’s crop? I have seen exceptional starch levels and average fiber digestibility across samples that have come through for my dairies thus far. The higher starch levels are welcomed with grain prices not showing much downside in the near or long term.
Having this type of information helps your dairy formulate a plan around how you want to feed your new silage before you ever open it up. Having this proactive approach sets you up nicely for the year ahead and maximize IOFC. Another important piece of information to have is multiple mycotoxin analyses to verify how clean (or not) the silage crop is. In my geography, I have not found much for mycotoxins because in general we had a nice growing season with minimal plant disease and stress. Along with a timely harvest taken when plants were green and healthy.
Even if your corn silage samples don’t show mycotoxins, please don’t let your guard down! You must remember that if you harvested 20,000 tons of corn silage and sent 2 samples for toxins, it might not be adequately reflective of the entire pile or bunker. So, plan to sample again at feed-out to ensure that nothing is lurking in that silage. Nothing is worst than surprises on a dairy that can negatively effect cow health and reproductive efficiency. I had a situation with 2021 corn silage that was like this where our fresh samples were ‘clean’ and even at the beginning of the bunker when we started feeding it. We thought we were good to go, no worries in sight! Well, as we worked through that bunker after a couple of months, we noticed conception rate slipping on the cows. I ran mycotoxin samples again and sure enough, the silage was loaded with toxins.
So, what happened here? There was hail damaged fields that got packed in the back half of the bunker and the dairy forgot about it. This distressed corn then developed mycotoxins in the field before harvest ever even happened. This highlights the importance of a few things. First, just because fresh mycotoxin results may show low levels, it is always best-practice to check corn silage again once you are feeding it or when in question of animal health. Second, after corn silage harvest is over, take time to reflect on it and make notes for the coming year. Put the notes somewhere that you won’t lose them! Here are some things to ponder with your harvest team:
- What went well this harvest?
- What created bottlenecks or hindered silage harvest that you can control?
- Is there silage out on the pad that needs to ear marked? Why?
- What will be the plan with this silage when you get to it?
- What general feedback does the team have?
Cheers to another year of silage harvest! I wish you all the best in the coming year as you begin feeding your new cow-chow!