The potential of small-grain silage


Where climate is adequate for its growth, corn silage is the main forage in intensive cattle production systems. Warm regions of the world usually allow for a double corn crop, thereby maximizing land use. In other regions with well-defined seasons, corn is harvested only once, leaving the land oftentimes fallow during the rest of the year.

Under these circumstances, cover crops, usually small grains, are becoming increasingly popular both as a protective cover for the soil and as feed for livestock. This practice allows for either grazing in the spring or storage for deferred use both as hay and silage.

In this short article, we will discuss the most common crops used for silage, as well as how their nutrient content impacts both their preservation and livestock performance. The dataset comes from approximately 500 to 10,000 samples (depending on the crop) analyzed across 15 seasons by the Dairy One Laboratory of New York. Bear in mind, these figures are averages of high and low values, and to predict their potential for preservation and/or livestock performance, it is always advisable to analyze samples.

Most silages in this dataset showed dry matter (DM) values that ranged between 33% and almost 39%. From this point of view, the values are mostly adequate to be preserved as silage. Only two silages showed DM concentrations slightly higher than ideal – millet (38.7%) and rye (38.5%); the use of silage inoculants might be advisable in both cases.

Continue reading this article published in Progressive Dairy