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Silage made from drought-stressed corn may not be as good as normal, but it can still capture some feeding value if producers bail it before the corn deteriorates any further.

GALENA, Mo. — While producers across the board are concerned with dry conditions this growing season, corn growers may have a possible solution to save as much of their product as possible.

MU Extension Regional Agronomy Specialist Tim Schnakenberg recommends producers consider bailing corn silage in areas suffering from extremely dry conditions.

“In this part of the state where the D2 drought is getting pretty severe,  many of the cornfields are just not producing very well with this dry weather, and hay supplies are very short,” Schnakenberg said. “There’s a lot of discussion right now about chopping corn for silage, the problem is there’s not a lot of choppers around.”

If producers do not have access to a chopper, Schnakenberg said that Extension specialists have discussed round-bailing the corn to make it into wrapped silage.

“A couple of a years ago there was a small trial that was done to compare that Reagan Bluel, our dairy specialist, was involved in,” Schnakenberg said. “They compared chopped corn silage to round bail corn silage. And they found that the nutritional value and the feeding value was fairly equivalent.”

MU Extension recommended harvesting the corn and waiting for the moisture to drop 50 to 60 percent before wrapping it into a bail. This will allow for corn to better ensile.

Before harvesting grain corn down to silage, it is important to call and discuss this route with your insurance agent, Schnakenberg said. It is also important to consider the corn’s nitrate levels.

“Nitrogen has usually been put on at full strength,” Schnakenberg said. “When it’s chopped for silage the corn crop hasn’t fully utilized that nitrogen so there’s usually an excessive amount of nitrogen available and in a drought that’s even worse, it accumulates.”

Once producers harvest the corn and ensile it, Schnakenberg said to then take an analysis of the forage to see if it is at a toxic level before feeding it to cattle.

“We certainly don’t want to harm cattle when we feed this,” Schnakenberg said. “The good news is the silage during the fermentation process will reduce the nitrate levels of the corn stalks at the time of the cutting. It will reduce somewhere between 25 and potentially 50 percent.”

For more information on bailing corn silage or checking nitrate levels, contact your local extension agent.