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Corn Silage Management: Effects of Hybrid, Maturity, Inoculation, and Mechanical Processing on Fermentation Characteristics

Journal of Dairy Science
American Dairy Science Association
DOI: 10.3168/jds.s0022-0302(03)73607-8
  • Nutrition
  • Feeding
  • And Calves


Abstract Two experiments were conducted to evaluate the effects of hybrid, maturity, mechanical processing, and inoculation of corn silage on fermentation characteristics. In experiment 1, Pioneer hybrid 3845 corn silage was harvested at three maturities (hard dough, one-third milkline, two-thirds milkline). In experiment 2, Pioneer hybrids 3845 and Quanta were harvested at three maturities (one-third milkline, two-thirds milkline, and blackline). In both experiments, corn silage was harvested at each maturity with and without mechanical processing and with and without inoculation. In experiments 1 and 2, corn silage was harvested at a theoretical length-of-cut of 6.4 and 12.7mm, respectively. Maturity at harvest tended to have a greater impact on silage fermentation characteristics of corn silage than mechanical processing and inoculation. In experiments 1 and 2, corn silage harvested at the earliest maturity tended to have decreased dry matter content and increased water-soluble carbohydrate concentrations during the ensiling process than corn silage harvested at advanced maturities. In experiment 2, pH levels were lower for corn silage harvested at the early maturity (one-third milkline) compared with advanced maturities (two-thirds milkline and blackline) by 57 d after ensiling. The difference in pH can be explained by the greater concentration of water-soluble carbohydrates at the early maturity (one-third ML) soon after ensiling (2, 3, 6 and 10 d after ensiling) compared with advanced maturities (two-thirds ML and BL). The increased water-soluble carbohydrate concentrations in the less mature corn silage provided nutrients for bacteria to grow and produce primarily lactic acid (6, 10, and 57 d after ensiling) and some acetic acid (2, 3, 6, and 10 d after ensiling) which reduced the pH of corn silage more than at the advanced maturities. There was a slight change in silage fermentation characteristics when corn silage was inoculated with Pioneer 1132 inoculant in experiment 1. The inoculated corn silage had increased temperature, lactate and acetate concentrations, and lower water-soluble carbohydrate and pH levels compared with uninoculated corn silage. Dry matter recovery tended to be greater for processed corn silage in experiment 1, and greater for unprocessed corn silage in experiment 2. It appears that when fermentation was greater (increased temperature and lactate concentration 57 d after ensiling) the dry matter recovery was lower.

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