Corn Silage Quality: Did You Know?

Corn is a one-of-a-kind plant with a lot of quirks to wrap your head around. From choosing your hybrid to harvesting it, the questions can be never-ending.

Did you know the energy in corn sileage increases as the plant matures, providing a greater feed value for your cows? Corn silage is a great energy source compared to other common feedstuffs, too, falling only second to cereal grains.

As winter sets in, ensuring your cattle are getting the most out of their feed rations is critical for their health and overall gains. Corn silage is one option with many benefits, but where do you start with planning a balanced ration for your herd this winter?

Quality Measures

The first step in determining corn silage quality is submitting a sample to a lab for analysis on dry matter (DM), crude protein (CP), fibre content (ADF, NDF), and energy value (TDN). Once these factors are determined, a balanced and cost-effective ration can be created to achieve your feed goal, whether it’s for gains or milk production.

Corn-Specific Terms

Neutral-detergent fiber (NDF) is themeasurement of the total fiber content of a forage which includes cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. Acid-detergent fiber (ADF) is the measurement of the cellulose, lignin, and pectin fiber fractions of forages which is used to predict energy content of silage, and other forages.

Did you know lower NDF and ADF values are desirable for corn silage? High values indicate the animal is filling up on high fiber forages with minimal energy content.

Total digestible nutrients (TDN) is the energy content of feeds as the sum of the digestibility of different nutrients including the sum of digestible crude protein, digestible carbohydrates, and digestible fat.

Did you know the estimated TDN for corn silage in Manitoba is 68.2 per cent? This is higher than both alfalfa hay and barely silage, making it a high energy option for cattle producers.

Milk per tonne is an estimate of the milk produced from the energy available from a tonne of corn silage dry matter, which is adjusted for energy required for maintenance of the cow.

Did you know corn silage is medium too low for calcium and phosphorus? A full analysis done on silage quality will help you to determine the required supplementation of minerals and vitamins for your cattle operation. Low sulphur is another nutrient to watch for in corn silage.

BY Corn Hybrids

BrettYoung’s silage and grazing corn line brings you leading hybrids with broad adaptability and reliable performance.  BY Brava RR2 is a high yielding flint/dent ideal for silage and grazing. It’s a Roundup Ready® Corn 2 product with a 2250 grain CHU or 78-day relative maturity (RM).  BY Belmont RR2 is our new hybrid. It’s a high-yielding hybrid well suited for silage and grazing in longer season areas with a grain CHU of 2450 or 83 RM.

Both BY Brava and BY Belmont performed exceptionally well in the Manitoba Corn Committee’s silage trials in 2022. BY Belmont RR2 topped the yield scale this year, taking top spot with 22.1 mt/ac, making it a great option for option for milk production and weight gains.

“BY Belmont is a great silage and grazing option for growers in longer season areas of Western Canada,” said BrettYoung Senior Product Manager of Forage and Turf, Thomas Thiessen. “It’s a medium height hybrid that consistently delivers high silage yields with very good feed quality thanks to excellent cob development.”

(Yield Mt/ac)
50% SilkTDN
BY Belmont RR222.1124.265.27269.027.849.22303119561.021.57
BY Brava RR219.0106.770.07070.526.445.32123617181.061.61
Trial Mean
(64 Hybrids)
Manitoba Corn Committee, 2022 Silage Corn Trial ~ St. Pierre, MB

Full data set can be found at MB Crop Alliance / MB Corn Committee:

This year, St. Pierre, Manitoba was the only silage corn trial in the province as the others were cancelled. Results from it come from an unbiased, local hybrid performance from a small-plot trial.

Finalizing Rations

Corn silage is a great option to mix with other ingredients to make a complete ration. When planning any ration, having a clear feeding goal, such as maintenance, weight gains, or milk production is the first step.  Getting quality tests for all feed ingredients is the next step to building a feed ration to best fit your animals’ needs.  With corn silage being moist, the addition of hay will encourage rumination and saliva production for healthier rumen functionality.

You can learn more about BrettYoung’s corn hybrids here.