Maturity & Dry Matter Content

Achieving the proper dry matter (DM) content for the specific forage at harvest is important for maximizing nutrient preservation and feed intake by the animal (Figure 1). Forages harvested below 30% DM are at risk from effluent loss and clostridial fermentation, while forages harvested over 35% DM risk losses due to aerobic instability spoilage.
Maturity Chart

Figure 1 The effect of maturity on maximum milk yield

 

Alfalfa & Grass

  • Yield and quality are major factors; yield increases and quality decreases with increasing maturity levels (Figure 2)
  • The harvest schedule during the first two cuttings should be optimized to maintain reasonable yields, while maximizing quality of forage
  • Alfalfa is optimally harvested between 35 and 45% DM (depending on storage structure) and between bud and one-tenth bloom
  • Grass is optimally harvested between 30 and 40% DM and during or prior to boot stage of maturity
Range Chart

Figure 2 Typical silage quality range for crops harvested at recommended stage

Corn

  • Maturity can be monitored by kernel milkline development, as kernels mature from blister to physiological maturity (blackline)
  • Corn is optimally harvested for silage between 30 and 40% DM and corn at greater than 30% DM will benefit from using a kernel processor at harvest time
  • Cereals are optimally harvested at 35 to 45% DM and high-moisture corn or cereal grains are best harvested at 68 to 72% DM (Figure 3)
  • To maximize quality, corn should be harvested for silage when the kernels are between one-half and two-thirds milkline (Figure 4); between these stages, starch content is increasing and fiber digestibility is in an optimum range

 

Harvest Chart

Figure 3 Optimum harvest stage and moisture levels for major silage crops

Corn Milk Line

Figure 4 Development of milkline in corn kernels (left) Milkline in corn ready for harvest for silage(right) Photo by Limin Kung