University of Missouri Extension: Choose Corn Silage

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Silage has been on my radar in recent months. Ironically enough, I have no personal experience with silage. While my dad and my grandpa would cut some silage for their dairy herd, by the time I came along the dairy cattle were replaced with beef cattle and chop silage was just not something we did on our eastern Nebraska farm.

In mid-June I attended the 2018 Silage for Beef Cattle Conference held in Mead, Nebraska, presented by University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and Lallemand Animal Nutrition. I wrote about Midwestern cattlemen utilizing silage more with less forage acres and more row-crop acres.


I also wrote about some of the rules of chopping and storing quality silage.


In the last couple of months I have written articles about the severe drought affecting farmers and crops in an area from east-central Kansas into northern Missouri.


This region has been suffering through a severe drought since spring and most crops have been affected, which is not good news for cattlemen trying to feed their cattle.


With a shortage of forage and a corn crop damaged from extremely dry conditions, many in the two-state region have turned to chopping silage to salvage something from the tough growing season. Some farmers in parts of Kansas were already making silage a month ago and quite a bit is being harvested right now in Missouri.

Chopping silage offers beef producers better options for feeding their livestock than utilizing the corn for the balage, University of Missouri (MU) Extension Livestock Specialist Gene Schmitz said in a recent press release. Of course that is not saying you can't bale corn. I talked to a Missouri farmer/cattle producer a couple weeks ago who was trying to bale up "wet corn."

While they did have a silage bunker, they didn't have any silage chopping or feeding equipment on their operation. From talking to different people in Missouri this summer, silage is not a feed made every year, so it is not surprising cattle producers would not have the equipment to utilize the feed.

According to Schmitz, silage allows for better control of the amount of high-energy feed for wintering calves. Balage, on the other hand, offers less flexibility and no control of portion size.

"From a diet perspective, we generally limit corn silage for beef cows to somewhere between 20% to 60% of diet dry matter, depending upon the stage of production, body condition and energy content of the silage," Schmitz said.

Schmitz said it is almost impossible to limit-feed a bale of drought-damaged corn unless it is tub-ground and mixed with grass hay and/or other feed indigents. There are also some issues with corn bales and high nitrate levels in drought-damaged corn.

The best silage is finely chopped and tightly packed to get rid of excess oxygen. Corn moisture levels must be high enough (generally 60% to 70% moisture) for silage to ferment properly, but not too high because the silage would become prone to seepage and bacteria.

Schmitz said to avoid putting silage in hay bunkers made out of round bales of hay. It is difficult to rid the silage of oxygen in uncovered bunkers made of bales and using bale bunkers leads to inadequate packing, shifting of bales during packing, and possible tractor rollovers, he said.

To read the entire MU press release about corn silage, go to….

For more information, the MU Extension publication "Corn Silage" is available at A publication on drought-related issues in forage, silage and balage is available at

Russ Quinn can be reached at

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