High levels of nitrates found in corn silage can be reduced, allowing livestock to be fed the crop safely, says J.W. Schroeder, North Dakota State University dairy scientist.

His suggestions include:

  • Don’t feed the silage until the fermentation process is complete. Fermentation will reduce nitrate levels by 30-50%.
  • Avoid fertilizing very high rates of nitrogen, either commercially or through manure, on a droughty soil.
  • Minimize plant stresses due to nutrient deficiencies.
  • Harvest on bright, sunny days.
  • Don’t harvest for at least three days following a soaking rain that comes after a period of dry weather.
  • Raise the cutter to leave at least 6” of stubble.
  • Dilute high-nitrate corn silage with feed grains or hay.

“It is difficult to predict where nitrates may be a problem, but the potential certainly exists,” Schroeder says. “Now is the time to be aware of that risk and manage accordingly.”

For more details on feeding stressed or damaged crops, visit Stressed Or Damaged Crops and Nitrate Poisoning Of Livestock.

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