Deciding on High Chopped or Traditional Corn Silage for Forage Inventory Needs
Knowing the nutritional and digestibility value of forages in storage prior to harvest can help determine if high chopping corn silage is a good option for the upcoming feeding season. First, look at the quantity of the hay crop silages the dairy has in storage. Also assess the NDF digestibility of the silage, because fiber content in alfalfa, grass or corn silage is almost meaningless. It is the digestibility of that fiber that is important.
Dairymen should discuss with their nutritionist how much alfalfa vs corn silage they plan to feed the high string. Late lactation milking groups don't need high cut corn silage because they have lower intakes and slower rates of feed passage. The chopping height decision is then based on the dairy's need for corn silage tonnage. The following two scenarios provide examples: 1) The dairy has high quality alfalfa silage with high NDF digestibility, but needs forage tons in their inventory. The decision should be to normal cut the corn silage or 2) The dairy has plentiful tons of alfalfa silage but analysis indicates only average NDF digestibility and/or low inclusion levels of the hay crop silage will be fed. The decision should be to high cut the corn silage.
Environmental growing conditions dictate if high chopping will improve fiber digestibility. Determine if high chopping increases fiber digestion prior to harvest by cutting plants at different heights, overnight the samples to a lab, and then let the nutritionist/dairy pick the chop height that gives the desired fiber digestibility content.