Corn silage is an important source of forage in the United States. It makes up over 40% of the value of the forage fed to dairy cows in the United States and is also an important feed in the beef finishing industry.
Several characteristics of corn silage make it attractive to many livestock producers. It is a palatable forage with relatively consistent quality and higher yields and energy content than most other forages. Corn silage production requires significantly less labor and machinery time than other harvested forages because it requires only a single harvest activity. Hay and haycrop silage, on the other hand, often require multiple harvests. The cost per ton of dry matter also tends to be much lower for corn silage than for other harvested forage crops.
Offsetting these benefits of corn silage are some disadvantages relative to other forages. There are few established markets for silage sales in the Midwest and Northeast, and transportation costs are high so the crop must often be fed on or near the farm where it is produced. Storage facilities for corn silage also tend to be more expensive than those for dry hay. However, recently developed alternative storage systems for silage have reduced storage costs to reasonably competitive levels. In some situations, where corn is not well adapted, the cost of production may be too high to warrant corn silage production. Also, on erodible soils corn silage production may be limited because of soil conservation requirements.
The purpose of this publication is to provide the most recent information on cost effective, safe, and environmentally sound ways to produce and use high quality corn silage.