A simple test can help determine the ideal time to chop corn for silage, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska extension forage specialist.
"The best way to check moisture is to take some freshly chopped forage and weigh and dry it," says Anderson. "But that takes more time, equipment and planning than you sometimes have."
Anderson suggests that growers use an in-field method called the squeeze test to quickly check moisture content.
"Grab a few handfuls of chopped forage and squeeze them tight in your fists for 30 seconds. If free juice runs or drips from your fingers, the forage is too wet for ensiling and you should wait a few days to chop. If your hand is just slightly damp and the ball of forage falls apart quickly, it’s too dry. You’ll need to add lots of water or find a wetter forage to mix with it."
If the forage ball holds together and your fingers and palm are moist, the forage is right for chopping, he says.
Proper moisture content of corn silage is critical to achieve good-quality feed. In bunker silos, 60-70% moisture is ideal. Higher moisture can cause seepage and sour fermentation. Lower moisture can heat the silage and cause mold.