Harvesting Optimal Forages

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In order to maximize producer profitability and production, we believe feeding high forage diets is a key success factor.  Furthermore, forage harvesting practices may be as or more important than actual forage varieties used in the ration.  Here are some key points to remember when harvesting your forages.

Chop Length

Balance between good packing and fermentation vs. effective fibre and rumen stimulation. To have ideal particle distribution in the TMR; long enough to stimulate chewing, short enough to prevent sorting.


  • Ideal DM 35-45%
  • 1⁄2” at ideal DM- at this cut length, you will still have 15-20% particle sizes above 1 ½”
  • 1⁄4” for mature dry cow haylage
  • 3⁄8” for dry forage >45% DM
  • 3⁄4” to 7⁄8” for wet forage <30% DM

Corn Silage

  • Ideal DM 30-38%
  • 1⁄2 – 3⁄4” normal range
  • 3⁄8” for non-processed or dry silage >38% DM
  • 7⁄8″ to 1” for very wet processed silage <30% DM and for BMR


  • Repair structural damage
  • Emptied and left to be further sanitized by rain and sun prior to filling
  • Inventory measurements should be painted on walls with roller (i.e. 20’, 40’, 60’…)
  • Lining inside walls with plastic improves silage quality and reduces DM loss

Harvest and fill quickly to diminish oxidization

  • Ensure adequate packing weight. (Goal is 15-20lbs DM of silage per ft3)
    • Filling rate (estimated Tons/hr) x 800 = Optimal packing vehicle weight
    • Vehicle weight(LBS) / 800 = Optimal filling rate
  • Progressive long wedge of 10-20o when filling, layers ideally less than 4”, drive-over piles, run:rise should be less than 4:1
  • Cover pile within 2 hours of final delivery, or extended periods of no silage making (>6 h)
  • Ideal covering: Film + 6mm top cover, or single layer of oxygen limiting cover
  • Weigh plastic down using rubber mats or tires (touching) or 8” of compost.  Plastic needs to be completely covered to prevent plastic from flapping.


Management of Bunker Silos by Bill Stone, Cornell University

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