Arm & Hammer Animal and Food Production
Corn Silage

Four steps to manage corn silage variability.

Posted November 21, 2019 by Dr. Neil Michael, Ruminant Technical Service Manager

In most parts of the U.S. there was little that went smoothly with this year’s corn crop. Wet weather created planting delays, a cool summer made optimal growing degree days hard to come by and another bout of cold and wet weather in the fall made for difficult harvest conditions. The result is a variable crop that could create challenges at feeding time.

Here are four things to consider when getting ready to feed the 2019 corn crop:

  1. MYCOTOXINS. The number and variety of mycotoxins increase due to adverse weather conditions during the growing season. Since mycotoxins form wherever mold exists, one or more species are present in nearly every feed ration. Industry surveys from around the world show that a majority of feed samples test positive for at least one mycotoxin. Because of their prevalence and diversity, it’s easy to underestimate the risk of mycotoxins. It’s safer to assume that mycotoxins are present and prepare your herd accordingly.

    Learn how feeding Refined Functional Carbohydrates (RFCs) can help mitigate mycotoxins’ economic impact by preventing them from being absorbed in the gut.
  2. CLOSTRIDIA. Wet weather before and during harvest can cause mud to splash onto plants, increasing the potential for clostridial contamination in forages. Much of the nation has seen wet weather at harvest this year, and Clostridia incidents are on the rise. As with mycotoxin prevention, the best defense against Clostridia is to make sure your cows are well prepared to fight these challenges at the gut level.

    One strategy is feeding CERTILLUS, which provides beneficial Bacillus bacteria to inhibit harmful clostridial growth and protect the digestive tract against clostridial risk. Managing harmful bacterial populations like Clostridia improves feed intake, rumen function and lowers risk of toxigenic lower bowel events.
  3. STARCH CONTENT. Feedback from silage experts indicates that the starch content in this year’s corn crop is down three to four percentage points from normal. Starch is a key energy provider and cows, especially in early lactation, need ample amounts of energy to maintain body weight as they ramp up to and maintain peak production. Supplemental energy will be needed to offset reduced starch content in grains and corn silage.

    One research-proven way to mitigate lower starch levels is to utilize an energy dense rumen inert fat source like MEGALAC®. With MEGALAC, energy is delivered to the small intestine, providing cows with extra energy to support and maintain peak production.
  4. VARIABLE DRY MATTER AND DIGESTIBILITY. Depending on where you live, your corn may have had a wide planting window. For example, in some areas corn was planted starting in early May with the rest in late June. But it was probably harvested over a much tighter window. This will cause variable dry matter and/or digestibility for plants harvested at significantly different maturity levels. Even if you were able to store silage from different fields separately, rations will change when you start feeding the new forage.

    To deal with unavoidable ration changes, use buffers and other products to maintain rumen function.
    A-MAX yeast culture is one option to improve feed intakes and support optimal rumen fermentation and digestion. Talk with your nutritionist about these and other solutions to overcome the challenges of forage variability.

Every year brings new challenges. This year is no exception with variable planting dates and a wet, cold harvest, leading to the potential for inconsistent corn silage quality. Be sure to test forages prior to feeding and work with your nutritionist to adjust rations accordingly. Our #ScienceHearted team of experts is here to help you maintain your cows’ resilience and performance in the face of corn silage variability.



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