Fine line between perfect processing and ideal chop length (Jerry Ruetten)

Posted on January 9, 2014 in Forage Foundations
By Jerry Ruetten, Vita Plus Dodgeville dairy nutritionist
In southwest Wisconsin, despite a lack of rain in August, soybean and corn grain production were about average to a little above average.  This fall, corn silage ran about 25 tons per acre and starch has varied between 25 and 42 percent, with the average being in the low- to mid-30s. The digestibility, compared to last year’s corn silage, was lower initially and is feeding that way.

A few custom harvesters in this area have switched to making Shredlage® for their customers. This product is generally longer in particle length and processed very well. Early in the season, they had some challenges getting the new machines set up properly, but, as the season progressed, most were able to dial in the technology.  We will be watching the results closely.

Whether chopping conventional corn silage or Shredlage, communication between nutritionists and producers is of the utmost importance, as I learned in an actual case this fall.

In late September, a local dairy producer called me because he said he needed help solving a problem.  His cows were down 30 to 40 percent in milk production, showing signs of acidosis with many hoof health issues, and going off feed.

The problem turned out to be lack of particle length in the TMR.  The producer thought that, because he did not have a kernel processor on his chopper, he should shorten the length of cut to the point where he could “nick” each kernel and that would help make up for the lack of a processor. Unfortunately, this resulted in 0 percent of the TMR on the top screen of a Penn State shaker box test, which was ultimately causing the problems with his herd. This reaffirms the need for constant dialog between producers and nutritionists.  By discussing your strategies, you can avoid common mistakes that can affect 12 months or more of feed and production.

For more on this dilemma between optimum starch digestibility, particle size and a healthy ration, click here for Dr. Eric Schwab’s Progressive Dairyman article on starch digestibility.

Category: Equipment
Forage Foundations
Forage harvesting