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HUBBARB:Understanding the process of corn silage fermentation and starch availability

June 6, 2020

It is well-known that once corn silage is harvested and ensiled, it takes some time before the silage will reach its optimal feed quality. A key goal when ensiling corn silage is to reduce oxygen and raise acidity rapidly so that lactic acid bacteria will go to stabilize and preserve the silage. I often hear people say that corn silage is well-fermented after three weeks in storage and that it’s okay to go ahead and start feeding it. While it is true that the largest percentage of total fermentation takes place in the first three weeks of storage, it is important to note that lactic acid, pH reduction and soluble protein will not reach the maximum levels until approximately four months after ensiling. Furthermore, acetic acid and soluble protein levels will continue to rise through six months of ensiling, while the digestibility of the starch within the corn silage will increase greatly over the first five to six months, with marginal increases thereafter.