7 Myths and Misconceptions about Corn Silage Selection
Growers need to sift through some myths and misunderstandings about corn silage hybrids. It pays to consider 4 basic silage selection priorities, suggests Dan Wiersma, DuPont Pioneer livestock information manager. They are:
- Identify a group of hybrids that are adapted to your area in terms of maturity, drought tolerance, and disease and insect resistance.
- For fields grown specifically for silage use, growers can plant full-season hybrids with relative maturities 5-10 days longer than your normal grain hybrids.
- Select hybrids with proven high silage yield and grain yield potential.
- Select hybrids with high-fiber digestibility to maximize animal performance.
Wiersma dispels a few common myths about corn silage.
Myth 1: A hybrid with the leafy trait will result in higher quality silage because it has more leaves.
Fact: In University of Wisconsin studies, leafy trait silage hybrids tend to have relatively high yields, but lower nutrient content. On average, these hybrids have 10% to 15% less grain content than normal corn hybrids. Grain is a key driver of energy content in corn silage. The fiber digestibility of leafy hybrids is similar to other non-BMR hybrids.
Myth 2: Better fiber digestibility makes brown midrib (BMR) hybrids a better choice.
Fact: BMR hybrids do have higher stover (fiber) digestibility than normal corn silage hybrids. This can be helpful if digestible fiber is limiting in the dairy diet. But there can be a downside involving yield and agronomics. Some BMR hybrids are lower yielding than elite non-BMR corn silage hybrids. Make sure you’re using BMR hybrids that provide adequate agronomics along with high forage and grain yield. BMR corn silage production generally reduces flexibility for growers who may need to use corn as grain.
Myth 3: Hybrids with soft kernel texture offer better starch digestibility.
Fact: Hybrids differ in kernel texture. Research indicates softer-texture kernels may be more digestible than normal dent hybrids at black layer maturity. However, silage harvest occurs at the half milk stage, before kernel texture differences exist. DuPont Pioneer research also shows soft-texture kernel hybrids are lower yielding and have 2.5% lower starch content than normal dent hybrids. A higher percentage of available starch won’t guarantee more starch in the rumen. Improve your harvest results by selecting hybrids with both high yield and high starch content. Then process kernels adequately before ensiling for best results.
Myth 4: Higher pectin content can increase animal intake.
Fact: No research backs up this statement. Pectin content is difficult to measure, especially at the low levels found in a grass crop like corn. Routine chemical analyses lump pectin with other nonfiber carbohydrates. Also, pectins are easily digested in the rumen. At the low levels found in corn silage, they won’t influence animal performance. Avoid selecting hybrids on traits that are difficult to substantiate.
Myth 5: Corn silage hybrids with low grain and starch content (high fiber content) will give my nutritionist more flexibility to adjust my ration for better milk production.
Fact: Most rations need extra starch from grain sources to meet animal needs. Highly digestible stover is desirable but not at the expense of grain content. Stover digestibility ranges are relatively narrow: Small changes in grain yield can offset large changes in stover digestibility. Pioneer® brand hybrids are selected for both highly digestible fiber and high grain content.
Myth 6: Relative maturity isn’t as important for a corn silage hybrid.
Fact: Growers can plant hybrids grown for silage that are 5-10 days more mature than grain hybrids. However, many companies list a relative maturity for silage on the label that’s 8-10 days earlier than would be listed for grain maturity. A 98-day silage maturity may really be a 108-day hybrid. Ask for the number of heat units required to grow the hybrid to silk or physiological maturity and compare with hybrids typically grown for grain.
Myth 7: DuPont Pioneer is a grain company and doesn’t breed silage-specific hybrids.
Fact: Pioneer® brand silage hybrids are grown on more acres than any other brand. Pioneer has the strongest commitment to forages in the industry. The DuPont Pioneer Livestock Nutrition Center conducts state-of-the-art silage and inoculant research. Researchers analyze tens of thousands of forage samples to help breeders select better silage genetics. Many hundreds of forage trials are grown each year across North America to provide local data. In addition, collaboration with universities and researchers around the world helps us develop the best silage products in the industry.