Weather disasters are unavoidable during the growing season or at harvest. One of the key factors for determining ultimate silage quality during these times is the quality of the crop and how it differs from normal. Strict adherence to critical control points is paramount to salvaging the best quality silage possible, given the weather extremes.
Heavy rains can cause flooding and standing water in corn fields at or near harvest. Below are several points to consider when making corn silage from these fields:
- Continue to monitor whole plant corn moisture during the drying of fields and consider harvesting as corn grain if the crop becomes excessively dry for good quality silage and feed inventory permits this shift.
- Flood damaged corn is more prone to fungal and bacterial contamination, along with ash from silt. High chopping, above the silt line, will minimize these contaminants, increase NDF-D and starch percent. Consider shorter chop length to enhance fermentation and packing.
- Promote excellent fermentation by using a high-quality inoculant. SiloSolve® FC and SiloSolve® MC have provided good fermentation and reduced the deleterious effects of contamination during ensiling and at feed-out.
- Increase packing weight to ensure high densities, especially if the crop is drier than targeted. Higher densities will minimize the fungal and pathogen load.
- Monitor corn silage quality, especially ash, starch, mycotoxin load and the fermentation profile, at feed-out paying attention to animal health and performance. Consider feeding a highly researched probiotic (BOVAMINE® brand products) to enhance cow health and mitigate the effects of molds and mycotoxins.
Hail damage during the growing season of corn destined for silage presents several of the same challenges as flooded corn. Most notably, hail-damaged corn will be at elevated risk for fungal growth due to release of moisture and WSC that promote epiphytic fungal growth.
- Continue to monitor whole plant corn moisture while watching fungal
- Promote excellent fermentation by using a high-quality inoculant. SiloSolve® FC and SiloSolve® MC, applied at 1.5-2.0 times the normal label rate, have provided good fermentation and reduced the deleterious effects of fungi during ensiling and at feed-out of hail-damaged corn for silage.
- Similar to corn silage made from flooded fields, continually monitor corn silage quality, especially mold and mycotoxin load, at feed-out paying attention to animal health and performance. Consider feeding a highly researched probiotic (BOVAMINE® brand products) to enhance cow health and mitigate the effects of molds and mycotoxins.
Drought-stricken corn can be a challenge to harvest as corn for silage depending on the duration, severity and when the drought occurred during the growing season.
- Nitrates pose the greatest health risk to animals fed drought-stricken corn, especially when fermentation time has been minimal. Allow at least 30-45 days for fermentation to proceed before feeding.
- Elevate cutting height to reduce nitrates as they accumulate in the lower third of the plant.
- Be safe! Nitrogen gasses produced during the initial days of ensiling are lethal to both animals and humans!
- An early frost is the least detrimental weather occurrence when it comes to making quality silage compared with those mentioned previously.
- Monitor whole plant corn moisture to ensure hitting your target for silage. Frosted corn dries down faster than non-frosted corn. Frozen corn does not dry very rapidly.
- Harvest quickly to avoid overly dry corn silage that will be more difficult to pack and ferment.
- Use a highly researched inoculant (SiloSolve® brand products) to promote good fermentation.
Weather-damaged corn for silage requires more detailed attention to the critical control points for making high-quality silage compared with corn grown in normal growing years.
- Monitor whole plant corn moisture to ensure hitting your target for silage.
- Avoid bringing contaminants to the silo.
- Use a highly researched inoculant (SiloSolve® brand products) to promote good fermentation and minimize effects of deleterious bacteria and fungi.
- Strive to attain higher packing densities as this will minimize fungal growth.
- Monitor silage quality and animal performance at feed-out. Frequent sampling and analysis for contaminants (yeast, mold, mycotoxins, nitrates, etc.) should provide additional insights for effective feeding management.
- Consider feeding a highly researched probiotic (BOVAMINE® brand products) to minimize adverse health events due to suboptimal silage hygiene.