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Studies take close look at effects of shredlage and snaplage

Kelli Boylen Published on 19 September 2012

A recent study at the University of Wisconsin Arlington Research Station shows that snaplage can be a viable way to feed dairy herds – but its effect on milk depends on how it is fed.

The feeding trial compared diets with snaplage, high-moisture shelled corn (HMSC) or two-thirds snaplage plus one-third dry corn treatments. Sixty cows were included in this study.

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Overall, the snaplage performed well. “There was no difference in milk production. Milk components are where we got burned,” said Randy Shaver of the University of Wisconsin at the most recent Four-State Nutrition and Management Conference in Dubuque, Iowa. Shaver is a professor at UW Madison and an extension dairy nutritionist.

Snaplage contains kernels, cob and varying amounts of husk and ear shank. A silage chopper equipped with a snapper head is used to harvest snaplage and it is processed by the chopper’s kernel processor.

Specifically, milk fat in the snaplage diet was 3.4 percent, compared to 3.67 percent fat for cows on the high-moisture shelled corn diet and 3.52 percent for cows on the combination snaplage and dry corn diet.

Shaver says that when all data was taken into account, the mixture of two-thirds snaplage and one-third ground dry shelled corn was the most favorable treatment in the study.

The actual milk yield averaged about 87 pounds per cow per day and was similar for all three treatments.

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There was also greater MUN (milk urea nitrogen) for the treatment containing snaplage as the sole source of corn grain.

A separate study at UW-Arlington compared corn shredlage or kernel-processed corn silage.

Kernel processors are used on forage harvesters to crack corn kernels and break up the cobs. Processing may improve kernel digestibility.

Corn shredlage is silage produced from whole-plant corn that has been harvested with a much-longer-than-usual theoretical length of cut.

Traditionally, corn silage has a cut of about 19 mm (approximately .63 inch), whereas with shredlage the self-propelled forage harvester is fitted with aftermarket cross-grooved crop processing rolls that cut at 30 mm (approximately 1.25 inches). This results in a greater proportion of coarse particles in the feed.

The longitudinally shredded forage has more surface area than other silage, has smashed corn kernels and seems softer and fluffier.

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“This is not your grandpa’s shredlage,” says Shaver.

In the study both the corn shredlage and the kernel-processed corn silage were allowed 30 days to ferment and then fed for about eight weeks to 112 cows.

“It was interesting that the dry matter intake actually went up with shredlage,” says Shaver. That study also concluded that fat-corrected milk (FCM) and energy-corrected milk (ECM) also tended to be greater, as did the ruminal and total tract starch digestibility.

“The farm crew was really happy with the consistency of the shredlage,” says Shaver. “They had to work a little harder to get the shredlage out of the bag, but it was not coarse enough to cause a big problem.”

At this time the only after-market kit for making shredlage is available for the Claas self-propelled forage harvester. PD

Boylen is a freelancer based in Waterville, Iowa.

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