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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies
bagged silage

Feeding Corn Silage

Posted by Travis Meteer - Nutrition

I have had numerous questions about feeding corn silage this winter. It is hard to post a blog that answers all the questions about feeding corn silage. Nutrient analysis of corn silage, dry matter, nitrate levels, analysis of other feedstuffs, cow size, cow condition, environmental factors, and many more variables can impact the amount of corn silage you need to feed. I recommend you consult your nutritionist or extension specialist to refine your ration.

Here are a few things to consider when feeding corn silage:

Dry Matter (DM): In contrast to feeding hay, which is generally around 85% DM, corn silage will be a high moisture feed and usually be 35-40% DM. This requires a mindset adjustment. Thirty pounds of corn silage is not thirty pounds of hay. You must compare everything on a DM basis. Hay: 30 pounds as-is multiplied by 85% DM equals 25.5 pounds of DM. Corn silage: 30 pounds as-is multiplied by 35% DM equals 10.5 pounds of DM. That's a big difference.

Protein/Energy makeup: Hay is generally adequate in protein and low in energy. On the other hand, corn silage, even drought-stressed corn silage, will be adequate in energy and usually low in protein. Corn silage can offer too much energy if intake is not limited. In most cases, it is least-cost to supplement some protein and limit-feed the silage to meet energy requirements.

Feeding Strategy: Offering hay free-choice is standard practice in the Midwest. Feeding ad libitum corn silage can result in some pretty fat ladies. Palatability of corn silage is high. Cows will consume 90-100 lbs. of silage if given the opportunity. In nearly all scenarios, that is over-feeding. Thus, limit-feeding corn silage is the best feeding strategy. Cow behavior will change. They will meet you at the front door and may bawl more because they are not full. Some guys can't stand to hear cows bawl, so they will offer cornstalks or straw free-choice.

Feeding corn silage requires a little change in mindset and practice. It is a very palatable, high energy feed that when utilized correctly can be a cost-efficient way to maintain cows. Limit-feeding corn silage can be an alternative feed or a substitute for lack of hay.

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