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Late-Planted Corn and Managing Forage Inventory

 

Late-Planted Corn and Managing Forage Inventory

Written by Robert Larmer, Associate Seller, for the 2018 DuPont Pioneer Agronomy Sciences Research Summary.

Introduction

The summer of 2017 has been challenging to say the least for agricultural operations across Eastern Canada. Excess rainfall in the spring led to much of the crop getting put into the ground later than expected. Since planting, conditions have been variable depending on your geography. In some areas, rain is now greatly needed. In others, every other day rain events have occured. Regardless of your current situation, now is the time to start preparing for what could be this fall to ensure that you have ample high-quality forage to feed until harvest and beyond.

Prepare for Later than Normal Corn Harvest

With much of the corn crop going into the ground later than what we have experienced the past few years, there needs to be an expectation among producers that harvest will also be later than normal. The cooler, wetter summer across much of Eastern Canada has done nothing to help this situation and in many areas, has delayed the maturity of the corn crop even further.

Traditionally it has been said that corn silage will reach harvest maturity approximately 45 days after silking occurs. This saying, however, was developed with much older corn genetics that did not have the late-season plant health that we see in today’s hybrids. Harvest moisture recommendations have also changed to account for the potential starch deposition by the plant late in the season. Corn silage should be harvested at ¾ milkline in order to maximize starch deposition by the plant without sacrificing whole crop moisture or fibre digestibility. This will usually put whole crop moisture in the 62 to 68% range and generally occurs 50 to 60 days after silking. Much of the corn across Eastern Canada is silking now or getting ready to silk, and it is already August 8th. Adding 60 days puts the calendar at October 7th. Do you have enough corn silage in storage today to make it to an October harvest? Furthermore do you have enough to make it to November or December to give the new crop silage time to ferment before being fed?

Determining Remaining Inventory

The first step to determining if you need to take measures to extend the number of days you will be able to feed corn silage is to figure out how much you have left. The following tables and links are helpful in determining how much inventory remains.

Extending Your Current Silage Inventory

There are many options available to producers to attempt to extend the corn silage that is already in storage from last year. It is very important to work with your nutrition professional to determine which of the available options will be best for your herd from a performance and return on investment perspective. This will differ from herd to herd, depending on inventory of other forages as well as availability of other purchased feedstuffs.

The first and by far the simplest option is to alter the ratio of forages in your ration, reducing the total amount of corn silage being fed, and increasing other forages, usually haylage.

Chart listing tons/bag for silage packed at different measurements. (JPG 163 KB)

Calculations based on University of Wisconsin Forage Ext. Silage Bag Calculator. *Actual capacity varies with moisture content, length of cut, and packing density. aCapacity based on 16 lbs. DM per cubic foot. bCapacity based on 13 lbs DM per cubic foot. cCapacity based on 33 lbs DM per cubic foot. dCapacity based on 42 lbs DM per cubic foot.

Click on the image above or here (JPG 163 KB) for a larger view.

This change will result in lower protein requirements in the concentrate portion of your ration and a need for increased energy be it in the form of a starchy feed like high moisture or ground corn or from another source like bakery meal.

Another option that is very useful for replacing some corn silage in the ration is beet pulp. Many producers are already feeding this product, so it may be something as simple as working with your nutrition professional to determine if you can increase the feeding rate of the beet pulp in order to further reduce the amount of corn silage you are feeding. If beet pulp is not currently on farm, it can be purchased in either wet form (75% moisture) and stored in a bag or bunk like silage or it can be purchased in a dry pelleted form either in bags or bulk. The wet product generally becomes available in late August as beet harvest and processing begins.

Brewers grains, cotton seed, and distillers grains are some other commodities that are generally available in Eastern Canada and can supplement a ration as well as help to replace some of the energy portion of corn silage. Many of these are high in concentrates and do not help to replace the fibre portion of the corn silage. This can be done by increasing haylage, adding straw to the ration, or adding in a non-forage fibre source in conjunction like oat hulls, ground corn cobs, or soy hulls.

Chart showing approximate silage pile capacities - corn silage & haylage at 65% moisture.

Calculations based on University of Wisconsin Forage Ext. Silage Bag Calculator.
* Actual capacity varies with moisture content, length of cut and packing density.
** Assumes a 1:3 slope for sidewalls, back and front ramps.
aCapacity based on 16 lbs DM per cubic foot.
bCapacity based on 13 lbs DM per cubic foot.

The direction you choose will be largely based on how long you need to extend your silage inventory, the availability of alternative products in your local area, and of course, the return on investment that these purchased feeds will provide for your operation.

Regardless of the approach that you think will work for your operation, it is important to work with your nutrition professional and ensure that the changes you hope to make will result in a balanced diet with a good return over feed cost that will allow your cows to continue to perform their potential.

The late spring; the cool; wet summer; as well as the many pests we have encountered this growing season have made for quite a challenge. Now is the time to ensure that you are prepared to face the potential challenge of a delayed harvest and plan to have old crop inventory to feed until new crop has had time to ferment.

Chart showing approximate silage pile capacities - well packed silage & low packed silage at 65% moisture.

Calculations based on University of Wisconsin Forage Ext. Silage Bag Calculator.
* Actual capacity varies with moisture content, length of cut and packing density.
** DuPont Pioneer calculations are based on following assumptions:

  1. Sidewalls are with no slope
  2. Back wall exists

aCapacity based on 16 lbs DM per cubic foot.
bCapacity based on 13 lbs DM per cubic foot.

 

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The foregoing is provided for informational use only. Please contact your Pioneer sales professional for information and suggestions specific to your operation. Product performance is variable and depends on many factors such as moisture and heat stress, soil type, management practices and environmental stress as well as disease and pest pressures. Individual results may vary.

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