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Use Caution Feeding New SilageUse Caution Feeding New Silage

This summer's drought has resulted in an abundance of corn silage; however, Extension specialists warn that drought-stressed silage requires a few precautions.

Wes Ishmael

August 20, 2012

2 Min Read
Use Caution Feeding New Silage

Most folks would prefer no drought and $2 corn, but at least it sounds like there's plenty of corn silage. In fact, you could pretty well draw a line from the first pits getting filled and the floor being propped up beneath calf prices.

“…Feed cost fears may be eased by the virtual mountain of silage that is being put up throughout the U.S.,” say analysts with the Agricultural Marketing Service. “This year’s failed corn crop may drastically reduce the availability of distillers dried grains (DDGs) but once silage pits and piles are given adequate time to cook out the dangerously high nitrate levels, backgrounders and feeders will have a plentiful source to feed from.

"There are many uses for a kernel of corn but silage is only good for feeding cattle. This feed source is most efficiently used for cows and/or hard yearlings, while digestion is more of a challenge for lighter calf weights. However, other proteins cannot take advantage of this surplus as chickens and hogs need whole grains; that could help beef compete on next year’s grocery budget," AMS analysts say.

Industry Resource Page: Drought Management

As for the actual feeding of it, Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist, cautions producers to take their time.

“Many times, crops stressed by drought or other factors will contain high levels of nitrates. Making these crops into silage is one good way to make these feeds safer because the fermentation process usually reduces the nitrate content of this feed,” Anderson says. “However, during the first few days of early fermentation, the chopped forage begins to heat, converting those nitrates first into nitrites. And, nitrites are as much as 10 times more poisonous to cattle than nitrates. Later, these nitrites are neutralized and converted into other compounds that make them less toxic.”

Anderson recommends waiting 3-4 weeks after chopping to feed fresh silage. He adds, “Then, test your silage for nitrates before feeding and feed accordingly.”

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