Your Reading List

High-moisture corn has advantages, disadvantages

“If you were planning to use the corn as livestock feed, highmoisture storage may be an option worth checking out.”

High-moisture corn offers many advantages for producers who feed beef or dairy cattle, according to a North Dakota State University livestock expert.

“However, successfully using high-moisture corn requires attention to storage conditions, feeding management and processing,” says Greg Lardy, NDSU Extension Service beef cattle specialist.

Corn can be harvested wet and stored as high-moisture corn. For corn to be used in this manner, it should be:

Harvested at 24 per cent to 33 per cent moisture for optimum storage;

Stored in plastic silage bags or oxygen-limiting silos for best oxygen exclusion at 24 per cent to 26 per cent moisture; Be sure to check with the silo manufacturer’s recommendations on storage of high-moisture grain. Some silos are not designed for denser products, such as high-moisture corn, and should not be used.

Stored in bunker or trench silos or piled and packed into a pile on the ground at 26 per cent to 33 per cent moisture;

Also, all bunker, trench and pile structures should be covered with plastic. If no bunker is available, a pile can be constructed, but increased storage losses typically result. Lardy advises that for best results with piles, use a two-to three-foot ridge of soil as a barrier to facilitate the packing process.

High-moisture corn is similar in energy and protein content to dry corn and offers several harvest advantages:

Yields typically are increased due to less ear drop in the field;

High-moisture corn allows for an earlier corn harvest, avoiding difficulties associated with adverse weather and potentially spreading the workload during harvest;

No drying costs are encountered;

By harvesting a portion of the crop as high-moisture corn, producers can turn cows onto corn residue earlier than conventionally harvested corn;

However, producers should realize that high-moisture corn also has some disadvantages, compared with dry corn, Lardy says. They include:

Marketing alternatives are limited. High-moisture corn will be marketable only through livestock. Since high-moisture corn will undergo fermentation, it cannot be marketed in traditional channels for ethanol production or other uses.

High-moisture corn may require additional storage and processing equipment.

Improperly ensiled highmoisture corn will result in excessive spoilage and storage losses.

High-moisture corn tends to ferment faster and require better bunk management, compared with dry corn, so the high-moisture corn must be stored in an airtight silo (bunker, silage bags or oxygen-limiting structure).

For optimum storage and utilization, high-moisture corn should be processed (ground or rolled) prior to storage. Grinding or rolling and subsequent packing of the corn facilitates oxygen exclusion in the silo.

Proper packing of the highmoisture corn in a bunker silo also is critical to oxygen exclusion. Packing bunker silos can be dangerous, so be sure an experienced tractor operator is running the packing equipment.

Be sure to inspect silage bags and plastic bunker covers for tears or holes because oxygen penetration in these areas can cause additional spoilage. In addition, producers should monitor bunkers for evidence of wildlife depredation and take necessary steps to reduce silage losses.

When pricing corn, producers should take into account differences in moisture level, particularly with high-moisture corn. Dry corn typically is traded at 15 per cent moisture. Highmoisture corn can have moisture levels from 24 per cent to 33 per cent, which necessitates adjustment to a constant moisture level.

“The cool fall we have experienced may delay corn maturity and increase the likelihood that corn will require expensive drying once harvested,” Lardy says. “If you were planning to use the corn as livestock feed, high-moisture storage may be an option worth checking out.”

For more information on feeding corn to feed cattle, visit ndsu. edu/pubs/ansci/beef/ as1238w.htm.



Stories from our other publications