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It's That Time of Year Again: Planning for a successful and safe corn silage harvest

Published on 11 September 2015
silage harvest

Just around the corner is fall corn silage harvest. This is the time to evaluate how things went last year and what needs to be improved upon this year. Here are a few key areas to consider when planning for a successful and safe corn silage harvest.

These tips are provided by technical service specialist Dave Ohman, DVM, Diamond V.



Hold a pre-harvest meeting

Have a pre-harvest meeting with everyone involved in the harvest so everyone knows the game plan. Discuss the who, what, how and why that is necessary to produce quality corn silage:

  • What is the desired moisture level of the corn silage? Generally, a good place to be is between 65 and 68 percent moisture. Chopping at moisture levels wetter than 70 percent leads to seepage losses and excessive fermentation; on the other hand, chopping drier than 60 percent moisture can lead to issues with poor fiber digestibility and poor packing.

  • What is the desired chop length and how will you vary it depending on corn silage moisture? This is a good conversation to have with your nutritionist and depends on what other forages are to be fed. By this stage of the harvest season, you should have a game plan for what your diets will look like for the coming year and what the needs are for chop length.

  • Who is going to be responsible for monitoring the incoming corn silage for moisture, chop length and degree of kernel processing?

  • How many choppers will you need, and how many trucks will it take to get the corn silage chopped in the optimum harvest window?

  • How will it be packed in the bunker? How many tractors and how much weight is needed, considering the planned incoming rate? (In general, you need 800 times the incoming rate of tons of forage per hour in packing tractor weight.)

  • What is the covering plan? One sheet or two sheets? Will you wrap the walls and ends? Who will lead the effort, and who is helping?

Determine the best time to harvest

Get the planning going early by monitoring your corn fields for the date at which each field reaches half-tassel. This can provide you with a rough estimate of chopping date and allow you to stage fields in the correct order. Corn is ready for chopping around five to six weeks after half-tassel. A more accurate date for the start of chopping is then determined by checking for whole-plant moisture.

Stay safe

Corn silage harvest can be a risky time for injury. Everyone is working hard, long hours to get the job done. Lots of machinery is on the move. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How will you keep safety at the forefront of everyone’s minds?
  • What is your safety plan?  PD

PHOTO: Photo by Lynn Jaynes.