In the book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" one of the key habits that results in success is to "begin with the end in mind." We need to plan our silage storage options with our "eye on the prize" of excellent quality forage at the end of our efforts.

As we consider what some Kansas State University researchers discovered, I'll begin with their conclusions of a study on the "Effect of the Level of Surface-Spoiled Silage on the Nutritive Value of Corn Silage based Rations."

If you remember just one point in this article, PLEASE let it be this statement of the concluding remarks of their research:

"These results clearly indicate that feeding surface-spoiled silage has greater negative impacts on the nutritive value of corn silage-based rations than were expected."

L. A. Whitlock, T. Wistuba, M. K. Siefers, R. V. Pope, B. E. Brent, and K. K. Bolsen of Kansas State University, in an effort to determine the effects of feeding different levels of "surface-spoiled" silage, took twelve ruminally cannulated crossbred cows and fed them progressively higher levels of "surface-spoiled" corn silage in a diet that was 90% corn silage and 10% concentrate. Irrigated corn was harvested at the 80% milk-line stage of maturity and ensiled in 3-ft-deep, pilot-scale, bunker silos and a 9-ft-diameter Ag-Bag[R]. After 90 days, the bunkers were sealed with a single sheet of polyethylene, and this silage was designated "spoiled." The silage in the Ag-Bag[R] was designated "normal." The silages in the rations were: A) 100% normal; B) 75% normal: 25% spoiled; C) 50% normal: 50% spoiled; and D) 25% normal: 75% spoiled. As the graph below indicates, there was an inverse relationship between increasing levels of "surface-spoiled" corn silage and dry matter intake. In addition, the rations that contained higher levels of "normal" corn silage had more digestible dry matter, crude protein and fibers when compared with the "spoiled silage."

Less "surface spoilage" should drive decisions on your operation when considering your forage storage options. Less "surface spoilage" means more dry matter intake, which translates into roadblocks to maximum profitability. This study determined that as we increased the proportion of "spoiled layer" in a ration containing 90% corn silage and 10% concentrate, cows ate less, and what they did eat had lower digestibility. Perhaps the most important finding of this study is that the integrity of the forage mat in the rumen was destroyed partially by even the lowest level of surface spoilage.