Corn silage is a mainstay in the cow diets of most dairies. A bit more attention to management considerations specific to corn silage could pay large dividends.
Begin with crop rotation. Tonnage increases about 10 percent compared to continuous corn. This is particularly true on dryland acres during a dry year.
Study and carefully select silage hybrids. Many different traits are available and the management needed to be successful with these traits may differ from one hybrid trait to another. In particular, using hybrids of differing maturity provides protection from weather risk by pollinating over an extended time period. The hybrids also will reach their best stage for silage harvest on different dates, allowing better timing of harvest.
As with grain production, early planting is critical to maximize milk production per acre potential from corn silage. Research indicates that milk per acre can drop as much as 1% per day for each day planting is delayed after May 1.
Silage corn tends to respond especially well to both narrow row spacing and to higher plant populations. Reducing row spacing to 15 to 20 inches from the standard 30 inches often increase silage yield about 7 percent without affecting forage quality. Similarly, research shows that increasing plant population about 5,000 to 6,000 seeds per acre more than used for corn grain provides the most economical planting rate.
Finally, be sure to apply adequate, but not excessive amounts of fertilizer. Silage will not require much more fertilizer than corn grain for production but silage will remove more nutrients that may need to be replaced for the next crop. Of course, this also can be a great site for manure application so test your manure for nutrient content and use it for cost effective fertilization.