Is Your Field Ready For A Corn Silage Harvest?

July 13, 2009 07:00 PM

Rachel Duff, Farm Journal Intern

A harvest management plan is a good way to have a successful harvest, says Jon Erickson, customer agronomist at Mycogen Seeds. But, what should you think about when creating a harvest management plan?
Items to consider when preparing for a corn silage harvest:
  • Timing of harvest
  • Harvest equipment
  • Storage

One of the keys to a successful harvest, Erickson says, is harvesting the silage at the appropriate moisture level. A common mistake farmers make when harvesting silage is to chop when the corn crop is past its optimum moisture. This can happen in multiple ways, he says. An important thing to keep in mind is that moisture content can change a lot in a day.
The appropriate moisture content for conventional corn silage:
  • From 65% to 70% for conventional corn silage
  • From 63% to 67% for brown mid-rib (BMR) for upright/stave silage
  • From 66% to 70% for a bunk or pit
  • 66% to 68% for a bag

To see if the corn has attained the appropriate moisture, there are a couple accurate testing methods, Erickson says. The Koster tester method and a microwave oven are the two he recommends. The kernel milkline is a good "rule of thumb,” but it isn't as accurate as the other tests, he says, because it can be affected by different environmental conditions.
The Koster test and the microwave oven method are similar in nature, according to North Dakota State University Extension.  The two methods involve weighing wet silage. Then they involve drying it out using the microwave or Koster drying container and unit. After the drying is complete, the silage is weighed again. Recommendations for specific weights can be found here.
When the timing of the harvest is nailed down, the farmer should check and prepare equipment prior to the harvest, Erickson says. The equipment should be in good condition with chopper knives sharpened, he says.
After the equipment is ready to go, the storage structures should be cleaned and repaired if necessary. The necessary supplies should be purchased ahead of time and ready to go, he says.
These guidelines can help you have a successful corn silage harvest, says Erickson, as well as maximizing your return.
For More: Mycogen Seeds or Dow Agrosciences

You can e-mail Rachel Duff at

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