Many of the factors that influence digestibility and nutrient content of corn silage are out of the control of growers. But specialists at Pioneer Hi-Bred say producers can make adjustments during harvest that can have a positive outcome for their crop. The environmental impacts from heat, moisture and light can have different effects on the nutritional value of corn silage. And there can be different impacts during each stage of growth. “Water is a major factor in the value of corn silage,” says Jim Smith, Pioneer livestock information manager. “If you have excess water pre-pollination, it will impact the digestibility of the fiber in the plant negatively. However, the extra moisture will provide growth and tonnage.”

Toward the later part of the corn plant’s growth cycle, water will add to the grain portion of the plant, adding energy deposition to the plant. Of the total energy available in corn silage, about 65 percent originates from the grain which comprises approximately 50 percent of the silage on a weight basis. “Choosing the right hybrid, along with timely planting and good basic agronomic practices, makes a difference,” Smith adds. The correct maturity for a particular growing area for corn silages is five to 10 days longer in relative maturity than corn planted for grain. Prior to harvest, Smith suggests checking digestibility by sending crop samples for testing. “If the sample is relatively low in digestibility, try chopping higher to reduce the amount of stalk, which is the most indigestible part of the plant,” Smith says. “Also, use crop-specific inoculants to improve silage fermentation, maximize dry matter recovery and boost animal performance.”