Silage yield, starch content, fiber quality, disease resistance and relative maturity are five top criteria when selecting a corn silage hybrid.

That's the consensus of a four-year University of Wisconsin study on corn silage selection.

“We did find some variability in quality measurements for corn silage,” says Jim Coors, an agronomist at the university. “As a result, we concluded producers should consider nutritional value, but still need to consider silage yield first when selecting a hybrid for silage.”

Look for hybrids with the right combination of starch, or grain, and stover, suggests Bill Mahanna, general manager of forage products at Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.

Grain supplies more energy on a pound-per-pound basis than stover. But stover makes a significant contribution to proper rumen function. When the two are balanced, animals get a consistent supply of energy and nutrient quality, improving animal performance and profitability, Mahanna says.

Growers should also consider ration needs and primary feedstuffs in their herds' diets when selecting corn silage hybrids, he adds.

“If a ration consists of 50-70% corn silage, producers should choose hybrids that have high total plant yield, good grain content and high total digestibility,” says Mahanna.

“Highly digestible fiber from the stover and moderate levels of readily available starch from the grain are important to optimize rumen function.”

When alfalfa makes up 50% or more of the ration, producers need to emphasize the grain content of the silage.

“Selecting a silage hybrid with high grain content can boost the energy level of the ration. A high grain-to-stover ratio will deliver a higher level of starch as readily available energy in the diet.”