Friday, June 29, 2012

Guidelines for Nitrate Testing and Silage Options

Chad Lee, Extension Agronomist, University of Kentucky

The dry weather has many producers considering salvaging the corn crop as silage. The dry weather increases the risk of nitrate toxicity. An updated set of sampling guidelines and testing laboratories are now available online.

Just remember that the sampling procedure and handling of the sample can greatly influence the results of the test. Follow the guidelines as close as possible to avoid false readings from the tests.

One very good aspect of ensiling is that nitrates are reduced by as much as 50% by the ensiling process. If corn is to be ensiled, then samples should be tested for nitrates around 3 weeks after ensiling. However, to get proper ensiling, whole plant moisture must be at the proper levels. According to Donna Amaral-Phillips, bunkers require fresh chop to be between 30 to 35% dry matter (65 to 70% moisture). Upright silos and bags can be a little drier at 35 to 40% dry matter (60 to 65% moisture).

Farmers need to focus on whole plant moisture rather than growth stage to ensure proper ensiling this season. This means that some plants may be harvested early, with little to no grain. The lack of grain will change the feeding value  If possible, corn fields at the same maturity should be cut and ensiled together. Forage analysis will be necessary on all silage this season to allow proper adjustments in final feed rations.

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