Is snaplage a fit for your dairy?
By Chris Wacek-Driver
Have you been talking about putting up snaplage this year? This forage has gained renewed interest with increased use of high capacity field harvesters equipped with kernel processors. The decision to harvest snaplage (which consists of the corn grain, cob, husk and some upper plant parts) will depend on the dietary fit and production goals of your dairy. Proactive discussions with your custom harvester and nutritionist are imperative in order to make sure everyone understands the opportunities, risks and challenges of this unique product.
- Earlier harvest than dry corn
- Faster and more economical harvesting process
- Higher yield potential to high moisture or dry corn
- Land is available earlier for manure application and fall seeding
- Starch is ruminally available
- Narrow harvest window for optimal moisture (32 to 45 percent recommended)
- Harvesting window is immediately after corn silage harvest (custom harvesters may not have machinery available or converted when snaplage needs to be harvested)
- More storage capacity is needed
- Product variability – percentage of cob, husk and kernel can vary
- Potential sorting of cob, husk and kernel both in storage and feed bunk
- Harvest moisture, pack density and feed off rate are critical to maintain stability in storage and feed out
- Higher risk of yeast/mold/mycotoxin with cob
- Lower energy than high moisture corn due to fiber from cob
- Requires some diet flexibility for optimal profitability
The proper moisture to harvest snaplage is a compromise between storage and feedability. In general, the wetter the product, the easier it is to store, but the harder it is to feed. The most common and costly error is to get it too dry. This has potential negative effects on palatability, fermentation, and yeast and mold growth in storage. In turn, these factors negatively impact stability, starch and cob digestibility, and cause sorting issues. Snaplage harvesting needs to commence when the kernel is at or close to black layer. For most hybrids, this means the kernel moisture will be at 32 to 36 percent moisture. A rule of thumb is to add 4 to 6 points of moisture for the cob and husk to reach the final moisture on snaplage. The introduction of the cob increases the risk for yeast, mold and mycotoxin contamination. It is highly recommended to use a proven inoculant, applying high numbers of L. buchneri to lessen the risk of yeast and mold contamination along with increased storage stability and to help control heating during feed out. Snaplage put up at higher moisture (greater than 40 percent) has high ruminal availability and tends to increase in availability over time. Many nutritionists find snaplage at greater than 40 percent moisture difficult to feed, especially in high corn silage diets or diets high in overall digestibility. They cite the ability to maintain butterfat – particularly during the summer months – as a major concern. Nutritionists will need the flexibility to feed more dry corn when fat test and rumen function is compromised in order to achieve the maximum benefit from snaplage. The decision to harvest snaplage needs to be a carefully thought out decision to ensure optimal farm profitability. Inclusion of key members in your decision making will help identify the potential opportunities, risks and challenges of this unique product and determine if snaplage fits into your farm’s harvesting, production and ultimately economic goals. For a more detailed look at harvesting this forage, check out this tech bulletin: Opportunities, Risks and Challenges in Harvesting, Storage and Feeding of Snaplage.
About the author: Chris Wacek-Driver is the Vita Plus forage program manager. She grew up on a farm outside of Denmark, Wis. and attended the University of Wisconsin-River Falls where she earned her bachelor’s degree in dairy science with an ag business minor. She went on to receive her master’s degree from UW-Madison. She conducted her research focusing on forage quality at the USDA Forage Center under Dr. Larry Satter. In particular, she studied forage fermentation, the role of microbial and enzyme additives, and their effects on dairy animal performance. Wacek-Driver has been a Vita Plus employee owner for the past 21 years and worked in dairy technical services prior to her current role. She has a passion for working with dairy producers to help them with on-farm feed inventory, feed management, forage fermentation and production, and dairy nutrition. She resides on a 240-acre farm along the bluffs of the Mississippi River in western Wisconsin.
Feed quality and nutrition