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Silage making for smallscale farmers

Preparation of silage from whole maize plants

Corn harvested for silage is an important feed crop, where cropland often is limited. The crop provides livestock producers with a high-yielding, relatively consistent source of forage and the animals with a highly digestible and palatable feed. Corn silage produces more energy per acre than any other crop

Corn silage serves as a high-energy forage for dairy cows. This is most important for high-producing herds and on farms experiencing problems with making or buying high quality hay crop forage. Corn silage, with its relatively high-energy content, is also well adapted for use in low-cost rations for fatten- ing cattle. Corn silage requires less labor per ton to produce than many other forage crops. It can ex- tend the harvest period for the entire corn acreage and provide an opportunity for salvage of stressed or damaged cornfields. Also, corn silage can efficiently recycle plant nutrients, especially large amounts of N and K. The most adequate moment for harvest of maize during the vegetation is the so called wax ripening phase of the maize grain.

The presence of a dark colored layer at the base of the maize grain is also an indicator for the appro- priate time of harvest for silage production. Once the first grains with dark layer are noticed you should wait for 3-4 weeks more before harvesting.

At this time the average dry matter contents of the maize plant is 30-35%. After the indicated phase, the contents of dry matter decreases as the stems get broken and leafs fall off. The maize can be silaged with or without other components. The whole maize plant should be harvested by cutting it 10- 12 cm from the ground.

The particles of the maize plant, when chopping it for silage should be between one and three centimeters in length, although the optimal length depends on the vegetation phase as shown in the table.

Phase of vegetableDry matter(%)Length of particle (cm)
Milk – Wax25-301-3

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