New ways of harvesting and storing forages to enhance feed value (Dr. Kevin Shinners)

Posted on February 24, 2015 in Forage Foundations

Click here to download Shinners’ PowerPoint presentation.

With Dr. Kevin Shinners, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Enhancing feed value is a major focus for producers and customer harvesters alike. Dr. Kevin Shinners of the Biological Systems Engineering Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison shared his thoughts on new ways to harvest and process forages at the Vita Plus Custom Harvester Meeting.

One new idea is fractional two-stage corn silage harvest. Shinners suggested creating a “new” silage between high-cut silage and snaplage, plus a better quality second harvest.

This new silage could be stalklage or toplage.

Producing stalklage is a strategy that manages the first operation to produce good quality maintenance feed.

Potential benefits of stalklage include:

  • Total yield per acre close to whole plant corn silage
  • High-fiber, low-starch “filler feed” available from second harvest of the same field
  • Potentially better quality than baled stover
  • New lime treatments could improve digestibility

Toplage is the ear plus some of the top of the plant. This produces better starch, energy and fiber digestibility than high-cut silage (HCS), but greater fiber content than snaplage.

Potential benefits of toplage include:

  • Potentially improved kernel processing
  • Most digestible portion of the plant is harvested
  • Corn header adjusted for optimized nutritional goals

The idea of fractional harvesting is exciting, but also comes with some potential challenges. Some challenges of fractional harvesting include:

  • Managing yield split
  • Managing moisture of both fractions
  • First-pass field traffic
  • Potential yield loss

A few different approaches can be taken when considering harvesting the stalklage fraction after the toplage has been harvested. The first stalklage approach is direct cutting. Though it is challenging to deal with slow dry down, wet stalks, and poor leaf yield, the benefits of direct cutting include only one additional pass and a clean product.

An additional approach of fractional harvesting would be to first create windrows, then chop the windrowed stalks. Although this adds operations and soil and rock challenges, the benefits include dry down and merging to match forage harvester capacity.

Another option to consider is fractional alfalfa harvesting. The typical way of harvesting alfalfa is cutting, merging and then chopping.  In other words, take the whole plant at the same time. What if the leaves and stems were harvested separately? Some positive attributes of fractional alfalfa harvest include:

  • Quality not entirely tied to cutting schedule
  • Maximum of three cuttings per year
  • Single-day harvest is possible as stems dry very quickly after cutting

Some challenges of fractional alfalfa harvesting include:

  • Achieving more than 25 percent dry matter that is needed for ensiling leaves
  • Capturing effluent from leaf silages
  • New feeding schemes needed

One alternative option for the leaves is post stripping, also called wet fractionation. This can be used as a protein supplement for animal or human use.

In summary, new technology and options for harvesting and storing forages are available. Though these new options may seem intimidating, learning about the options is a great place to start.

Category: Forage Foundations
Forage harvesting
Forage storage and management