Drought-Stressed Corn Silage For Beef Cows

US - Due to the summer drought, many producers chopped drought-stressed corn for silage. Corn silage from drought-stressed corn is excellent livestock feed, although several management issues must be considered.
calendar icon 3 November 2011
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If the corn was too dry or not well packed as it was chopped and put in the silo, excessive spoilage could occur. Be sure to discard spoiled feed and feed only good quality material.

When silage feeding begins, it is recommended to remove three to four inches of silage from the face of the pile daily in order to prevent silage deterioration due to oxygen exposure. This should be increased to six inches during hot weather.

Book values for energy, represented by Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN), and crude protein (CP) indicate that drought-stressed corn silage has over 30 per cent more energy than mature fescue hay and an estimated 10 to 20 per cent more protein than normal corn silage. It is estimated that drought corn silage has 70 to 100 per cent of the feeding value of normal corn silage.

Because of the variability in growing conditions, the amount of corn grain in the silage and the possibility of nitrates, it is recommended to have nutrient analysis done on the silage. Then accurate, safe feeding programmes can be designed to meet the nutrient requirements of each specific group of animals a producer will be feeding.

Corn silage is an extremely versatile feed that can be used in just about any feeding programme. For dry beef cows in mid-gestation, it may be best to limit the amount of silage in the rations so cows will not get excessively fat.

Silage can be fed in combination with hay to stretch low hay supplies and better match the energy needs of dry beef cows. Protein and mineral supplementation may be necessary, however, so it is best to formulate diets based on the nutrient content of the silage in the pile, rather than to use book estimates of nutrient content.

If producers are feeding lactating cows or backgrounding calves, silage is also an excellent ration ingredient. There may be a need for supplemental protein, vitamins and minerals, so it is important to have feeding programmes designed for the performance expectations for these animal groups as well.

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