Early frost can bring the need to harvest immature corn for silage, creating some management challenges. University of Illinois extension specialists Mike Hutjens and Dan Faulkner offer the following tips:

  • Immature corn silage can be high in moisture, which can cause excessive seepage from upright silos. The first frost or two does not change the composition or dry-matter content greatly unless it kills the stalks, husks and kernels. Wait five to 10 days after a killing frost to reach optimum dry matter for storage.
  • Nitrate content should not be a problem if an ear has formed. A frost that kills the leaves but not the roots, which absorb nitrates from the soil, can increase nitrate content. Test the silage if nitrate levels are a concern.
  • Adding 30 to 35 pounds of a dry feed, such as chopped hay, ear corn, corncobs or midds, per ton of wet corn silage can lower the final moisture by one percentage unit. Adding 300 pounds of dry corncobs to a ton of immature corn silage containing 75 percent moisture would lower the mixture to 65 percent moisture.
  • A bacterial preservative can improve the fermentation characteristics of wet, immature corn silage.
  • Test the immature corn silage after ensiling, and balance diets according to recommended guidelines.