Harvesting and feeding corn stalks can have a lot of advantages. However, to reap the advantages many components must be considered and adhered to properly. Perhaps the most important of those components is timing. But have no fear, there is now an app to help farmers determine the best time to cut silage.
Like most forages, there is a lot of variability in the nutrient content of silage. After extensively testing many samples of corn stalk bales, it has been found bales typically fall in two different ranges. First, are the lower quality bales. These bales are usually between five and six percent crude protein. Additionally, they are around 48% total digestible nutrients on a dry matter basis.
Second, are the higher quality bales. These bales test with more feed value and are around seven percent crude protein. Furthermore, TDN is around 52% on a dry matter basis.
The primary difference between those of “lower” and “higher” quality seems to be the harvest method. Those stalks which were harvested directly behind the combine and not shredded are usually of higher quality than those that were mowed, raked and baled.
According to experts, the best way to harvest corn stalks is with cattle themselves. This is the most cost efficient, labor-saving method. It is also extremely beneficial as cattle will only eat the highest quality parts of the plant (leaves, husks, grain) and leave the lower quality stalk in the field.
This is especially vital in drought years since there is significantly less risk of cattle consuming toxic levels of nitrate because the highest concentration of nitrate in the corn plant is contained in the lower stalk.
Technological Tools of the Trade
A new tool has been released by Rock River Laboratory, Inc., to help farmers determine the best time to cut silage. The in-app tool is called InField Updates. You must use the FeedScan app by Rock River to use InField Updates. It is even free for users.
Nutritionists, agronomists, growers and more can review fresh dry matter, neutral detergent fiber and starch statistics geographically to help determine appropriate chopping schedules.
“Hitting the ideal harvest window is a vital component to processing good feed for the coming year,” said Zachery Meyer, Rock River Laboratory director of operations in a recent press release. “Any tool that Rock River Laboratory can develop to quickly provide consultants and farmers with the data they need to plant for a successful harvest is an easy investment for us.”
Additionally, InField Updates relies on the industry to supply Rock River Laboratory with corn samples. They will then analyze samples for dry matter, neutral detergent fiber and starch analysis. This data will help gather information for the tool.
“We’ve all seen how crowdsourced and community-based apps can make life easier, be it for a safer, faster drive to your destination or to pick where you’re eating for dinner,” Meyer said. “Now, there is an opportunity for our agriculture industry to utilize this technology for the benefit of producers, all while upholding the privacy of those sharing their samples.”
This in-app tool can be accessed from any smartphone or tablet. However, keep in mind you must use the parent app, FeedScan. Users can review data in a ten-mile radius of their location. This will give them the most relevant information for planning individual harvest.
Many factors go into harvesting and feeding corn stalks. Perhaps the most important part of the harvest process is timing. There is now an app producers can use to determine the best time to chop silage. The idea behind InField Updates was the need for timely moisture assessment of corn intended for silage, to best predict chopping timing. The app is free for download and can be accessed from any smartphone or tablet.
Image courtesy of South Dakota Corn