In South Dakota, the earliest form of corn harvest starts in late August and early September as the plant starts to change from green to gold. Corn silage cutting, a widespread practice in the state, is basically chopping the entire corn plant up which is later used for livestock feed. Corn silage is a popular feed option because of its high energy content and digestibility.
Keys to a good silage crop include early planting, high plant population, narrow rows and a high grain yielding hybrid variety that matures slightly later than average. While some farmers plant certain varieties of corn better suited for silage, cutting hail-damaged corn is also an option. Farmer
Corn silage is ideally harvested when the corn ears are well-dented and the plant begins to turn brown and dry. Silage that is harvested in the milk and dough stages will yield fewer nutrients per acre and may not ferment correctly. Late cut silage that includes brown and dead leaves will produce a quality feed, but will yield as much as 30% less.
As the corn is chopped, the plant is still alive as it continues to breathe producing carbon dioxide and heat. When the plant cells stop breathing, the plant begins to ferment and will continue for around three weeks while the silage preserves. The less air reaching the corn silage the better, as it’s important to properly cover your pile or fill your silo with temperatures between 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit. Properly packed and heated silage should have a light-green to yellow color with a vinegar type odor.
As of September 5th, corn silage cutting was 39 percent complete in South Dakota. That puts the state progress 33% ahead of one year ago and 13% ahead of the five year average.