Farm and Field

Corn silage, not balage, better option for beef producers

Posted: Aug. 26, 2018 12:01 am

Farmers are looking to drought-stressed corn for silage and balage to stretch limited hay supplies.

But University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist Gene Schmitz said chopped corn silage offers beef producers better options than balage.

Silage allows better control of the amount of high-energy feed for wintering cattle, Schmitz said. Balage offers less flexibility and control of portion size.

"From a diet perspective, we generally limit corn silage for beef cows to somewhere between 20 to 60 percent of diet dry matter, depending upon the stage of production, body condition and energy content of the silage," he said.

This prevents cattle from getting too fat and avoids unnecessary feeding costs.

"It's almost impossible to limit-freed a bale of corn silage unless it is tub-ground and mixed with grass hay and/or other feed ingredients," Schmitz said. "I think it is important to understand this limitation, especially if the silage is carrying some nitrate with it."

Schmitz said the best silage is finely chopped and tightly packed to get rid of excess oxygen. Cover immediately to protect against the elements, which cause spoilage and nutrient loss. Chop corn when it is still green. Moisture levels must be high enough, generally 60 to 70 percent, for corn to ferment properly, but it should not be too high or it will become prone to seepage and bacteria.

Put silage on the ground, and pack from all sides to feed, he said. Avoid putting silage in a hay "bunker" made out of round bales. It is difficult to rid the silage of oxygen in uncovered bunkers made of bales. Using bale bunkers leads to inadequate packing, shifting of bales during packing and possible tractor rollovers.

More information is available in "Corn Silage," a MU Extension publication available online at

?Food study

A new feasibility study and economic assessment will look at the extent Missouri agribusinesses will benefit from a focused effort to expand food, beverage and forest product processing capabilities.

The Missouri Agricultural Foundation, in collaboration with the college of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri, has received funding from the Missouri Value-Added Grant Program to look at the status of food, beverage and forest product manufacturing in the state.

The project, called the Show-Me-State Food, Beverage and Forest Product Manufacturing Initiative, has been championed by the foundation, an independent group that works in partnership with the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

Study findings will be used to grow existing businesses in the state or attract multiple facilities to Missouri, CAFNR Vice Chancellor and Dean Christopher Daubert said. Through the support of this initiative and the involvement of Missouri stakeholders, the goal is to expand the economic impact of Missouri agriculture and agribusiness to $175 billion by 2030.

"To help Missouri agriculture achieve greater economic impact, we all know our commodities must be transformed, instate, to products that consumers desire," Daubert said. "Food, beverage and forest product manufacturing can diversify and bring increased value to basic commodity production that occurs throughout rural Missouri."

The study will be done by TEConomy Partners LLC, and a final report is expected in December.