My next conversation was with Bill Weiss, an Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) Extension dairy nutrition specialist in Wooster. He said transferring silage between farms is commonly done and losses can be as low as 1-2% when done correctly. That means starting with well-fermented, high-quality silage transferred during cold winter temperatures and either re-packed into a silage bag or bunker silo within a 48-hour period. The sooner the better.

The worst situation would be transferring during warm weather over more than a 48- hour period and storage on bare soil. Recognizing that utilizing silage as a one-time emergency feed will not justify pouring a concrete slab to store silage, Weiss says bagging would be the preferred storage method and would pay for itself several times over by what it would save in spoilage.

Weiss estimates that by transferring silage in cooler fall temperatures, and doing it quickly within 48 hours or sooner, and bagging on the farm could reduce losses to the 5% level. If the only alternative is to pile on bare soil, it is critical that the pile is well packed and then covered with plastic, though it’s likely that losses will be in the 10% range in this situation, he says.

If at all possible, a preferable situation over silage transfer would be for the producer to contract with a custom operator to chop this year's corn crop, haul it to the farm and either pack it into a bag or pack in a pile, cover, and let the ensiling process take place on the farm.

Corn should be chopped at a moisture level of 65%-68% (32-35% DM). The ensiling process is generally complete in about three weeks for corn chopped at the proper moisture content. Most producers typically allow at least four weeks after ensiling before they begin feeding corn silage.

Once a pile or bag is opened, the face is exposed to oxygen and subject to heating. Producers should try to feed/remove at least 6 in./day across the face of the pile to keep DM losses to 3% or less for densely packed silage. Looser packed, more porous silage will have greater losses and/or will have to be fed to remove a larger volume.

It’s likely that a producer would need at least 30 cows feeding corn silage at between 25-30 lbs. /head (as-fed) to maintain a removal rate of 6 in./day on an 8-ft.-diameter bag of silage.