Volatile grain markets, the unpredictable future of the biofuels industry and overall costs have farmers looking for creative and less expensive ways to get weight on their animals efficiently. This is causing many farmers to think about silage. Silage is beneficial from numerous standpoints. You can feed more of it, lower purchased feed costs, keep your animals healthy, and if you play your cards right, improve your competitive advantage. Many growers across the country, and specifically in our area, are looking toward silage to meet their needs. Two factors have been instrumental in the increased production of silage. Silage making is much less weather dependent than hay-making – the old adage about making hay while the sun shines doesn’t apply to silage. Corn and sorghum can be direct cut. Most other forages can be adequately wilted for silage in less than 24 hours, greatly limiting your risk of weather damage. Producers, especially ones running cow-calf operations typically have a job “in town”, and having a more flexible window for harvesting is a huge plus. Silage production is also easy to mechanize, and local folks who specialize in chopping are becoming easier to find.  Silage is a fermented, high-moisture fodder. It is fermented in a process called ensiling or silaging. Silage, especially in the Ozarks, can be made from a variety of crops, such as corn, alfalfa, sorghum or other cereals. The efficiency of silage comes from the usage of the entire plant, rather than just the grain. For those operators not ready to run out and build a silo, silaging can also be accomplished by piling the roughage in a large heap covered with plastic, perhaps in an old poultry pit, or by wrapping large bales in plastic film. It needn’t be a large scale investment to try out silage. 
Producers in the Midwest have a great variety of forage sources. Whole plant corn, however, offers the most flexibility. The flexibility of corn comes from the fact that when farmer feeders plant regular dent hybrids in the spring, the crop can be harvested as corn silage, earlage, high moisture corn or dry corn depending on market prices. The numbers prove that corn as silage furnishes 50 to 60 percent more nutrients per acre for cattle than harvesting the grain alone. 
Being adaptable and looking at the big picture with silage is important. Corn silages vary in their nutrient content. The biggest variable is the percent moisture in the silage. Other factors affecting the feed value of silage are the ratio of grain to stalk, percent fiber, fermentation process and spoilage. Silage must be firmly packed to minimize the oxygen content, or it will spoil. Silage fermentation takes about four days for oxygen to be used up (phase one), acetic acid formation (phase two), and lactic acid formation to pickle the silage (phase three). Phase four is a stable time when the silage is cooling.  Manure evaluation is a good way to evaluate the efficiency of your silage. If corn kernels appear, energy is lost. Allowing the silage to “cook” longer and soften the starch will improve efficiency. Corn silage is a good source of carbohydrates for diets, but poor for protein. Many nutritionists recommend that a potential way of producing more nutritionally balanced silage is to grow corn together with climbing beans that are high in protein.
The cost of silage is difficult to figure on most farms, but most area farmers who are currently feeding silage feel that the cost savings is significant.


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