The lack of rainfall has resulted in a forage shortfall or the need to chop corn silage early. The following are some points to consider related to your corn crop.
- Monitor the corn crop and it chop for silage when it reaches the proper moisture level. Although corn silage may have small ear and/or lack of full kernel development, feeding programs can be built around this forage. The crop will be lower in energy and additional energy will need to be added to the diet in the form of corn grain, grain by-products and/or fat supplements.
- Test for nitrates after the crop has fermented for three to four weeks and before feeding. Ensiling silage (with proper fermentation) can reduce nitrate levels by approximately 50 percent.
- Do not feed corn silage as green chop if it is drought stressed. ¿the crop may be high in nitrates and cause abortions and death in cattle. Test for nitrates before feeding corn as green chop or before harvesting crops that accumulate nitrates. Collect five to 10 random plants per field, chop the material, place a representative sample in a paper bag (not plastic) and place on ice and hand-deliver or ship overnight to a testing laboratory. Nitrates can accumulate in other forages. Besides corn, nitrates can accumulate in Johnsongrass, millet, sorghum, sudangrass, sorghum-sudangrass hybrids, and some weeds. These crops should be checked for nitrates before grazing, green chopping, or harvesting for stored feed.
- Feeding options. Start by taking an inventory of forages you have on hand and test each to determine its quality and develop a plan for its most economical use within your operation. Forage extender products composed of grain by-products and cottonseed hulls can help extend forage resources. Additional grain by-products can be fed to stretch silage supplies. For heifers, corn silage can be limit fed or mixed with wheat straw to extend or replace hay supplies.
Jerry Little is Boyle County extension agent for agriculture/natural resources.