Submitted to: Hoard's Dairyman
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: April 2, 2007
Publication Date: September 10, 2007
Citation: Broderick, G.A. 2007. Is there a best mix of alfalfa silage and corn silage? Hoard's Dairyman. 152(15):612. Technical Abstract: Corn silage is the crop that yields the most dry matter per acre on Midwest farmland, but it also has the greatest need for nitrogen fertilizer. Alfalfa fixes nitrogen from the air and is a net contributor of nitrogen to the soil. The price of fertilizer nitrogen goes up with the cost of energy, and energy is getting more and more expensive. Alfalfa and corn silages are also an excellent nutritional fit for dairy producers. Alfalfa silage is high in protein and a good source of effective fiber, but it is relatively low in energy, while corn silage is low in protein but provides lots of energy. This makes alfalfa and corn silages complementary feeds for the dairy cow. Different dietary ratios of alfalfa silage to corn silage were assessed in three experiments. Overall, milk production was maintained, and protein efficiency improved, by diluting a third to a half of alfalfa silage dry matter with corn silage. Of course, care must be taken to feed adequate effective fiber when increasing the amount of corn silage; we recommend that diets contain a minimum of 28% total neutral detergent fiber. If you are feeding all of your forage as corn silage, maybe it is time to re-think your strategy.