Earlage is a type of feed that is growing in popularity in this region of the country. It is a relatively high-energy feed product that can be harvested, stored, and fed using the same types of equipment that is used to produce corn silage.
What is Earlage?
Earlage is a type of forage made from ensiled corn grain, cobs, and, in some cases, husks and a portion of the stalk (depends on the harvest method). Although earlage has more energy than corn silage, it has less energy than dry or high-moisture corn grain.
Earlage can be effectively used in different types of cattle diets, such as those for beef cattle that are in the process of growing and finishing, as well as in the feed for lactating dairy cows. Earlage can also refer to corn that has been ensiled, including the grain, cobs, husks, shanks, and a portion of the stalk that is harvested along with the ear when the all-crop header is raised to a certain height.
Depending on the material being ensiled and the harvest equipment, you also may hear the following terms:
- Snaplage: This describes ensiled corn grain, cobs and husks typically harvested with a forage harvester equipped with a corn snapper header so that only the ear and a portion of the ear shank is removed, chopped, and ensiled.
- High-moisture Ear Corn or Corn and Cob Meal: This refers to corn grain and cob material that’s harvested with a combine set to return the grain and a portion of the ground cob to the hopper.
- Turning corn grown as feed into earlage requires no drying costs.
- Harvesting the corn crop as earlage will increase the dry-matter yield by approximately 20 percent compared with just harvesting the grain because you are capturing the cob, husks, and a portion of the ear shank and stalk.
- Earlage can be harvested before dry corn grain normally would be combined, lengthening the harvest window.
- Longer-season corn varieties can be grown with potentially higher yields, with estimated yield increases of 3 to 5 bushels per acre for every day of relative maturity.
- Earlage is easy to feed, and cattle stay on feed more consistently with earlage in the ration due to the digestible fiber present in the cob and husk and the positive effect of the cob “scratch factor” on rumination.
- Earlage must be used as feed for ruminant animals. No other markets exist.
- If harvested late, the cob is low in digestibility, resulting in a feed with lower energy content relative to dry grain.
- Earlage is often lower in protein than other corn grain products.
- Losses due to spoilage and shrink can be excessive if good silage-making principles are not followed.
- Lower volumes of corn residue remain following earlage harvest, and that which does remain is lower in nutritional quality for grazing compared with corn residue remaining after grain harvest.
Earlage can be stored using the same methods as corn silage, including in bunker silos, plastic storage bags, and structures that limit oxygen exposure. When deciding on a storage method, you need to take into account how much you want to store, how quickly you’ll harvest it, how much you’ll need to feed it, and how long you want to keep it.
If you’re looking to store large volumes of earlage, bunkers or trench silos are generally your best option. Tractors packing earlage into bunker silos should be equipped with dozer blades and should cover the earlage in the same way that corn silage would be packed and covered in a bunker silo. To reduce spoilage losses and ensure a good-quality feed product, proper packing and covering are critical. Bunker silos are most efficient when a large volume of feed needs to be stored, and when that feed needs to be dispensed quickly. A floor and sidewall made of concrete will reduce the amount of food that is wasted and provide a solid surface for equipment used to feed the animals.
The surface of the bunker should be kept fresh to avoid excessive spoilage and heating of the feed, which will reduce nutrient availability. When feeding rate is lower, it is best to use narrower bunkers because there will be less material on the face, and it will be the right size for the feedout rate.
To keep earlage from spoiling, cover bunker, trench, or drive-over piles with plastic to create an anaerobic environment. You should check your plastic regularly for holes or tears, and fix them if you find any.
The plastic bags used for silage are filled using a specialized machine that stuffs the bag full. Pressure can be varied to accommodate different feed products. Baggers are available for rent or purchase. Bags come in different sizes and lengths.
Clear a flat space large enough for equipment to move around and fill bags. Make sure to remove any rocks or debris that might be in the way. Inspect bags and plastic bunker covers for tears or holes because oxygen can enter through these areas and cause the food to spoil. Looking out for evidence of animals damaging the crops, and taking measures to stop it from happening, will help to reduce crop losses.
The upper portion of the silo is the most difficult to fill because of the oxygen-limiting structure. Storing earlage in glass or steel silos, and possibly concrete stave silos, can be difficult because of the oxygen-limiting structure at the top of the silo. Before you store the product in a structure that limits the oxygen, you should contact the manufacturer to see if your silo can handle the weight and density of the material. Earlage is denser than corn silage. Thus, it is vital that your silo and the corresponding unloading machinery can support the increased weight before filling the silo.
Nutrient Content and Feeding Recommendations
The nutrient content of earlage can vary depending on how it is harvested. If there is more shank, stalk, and trash in the earlage, the energy content will be lower. Corn crops that don’t mature due to poor growing conditions will have lower proportions of grain and less energy than corn grown under good conditions.
The grain accounts for nearly half of the total weight of the plant, while the cob and husk make up 8.2 and 7 percent, respectively. The typical corn plant yields approximately 78 percent grain, 14 percent cob, and 8 percent husk and shank at harvest. The type of header used for harvest will result in a different ratio of grain to stalk in the earlage. All-crop headers result in a lower proportion of grain, while snapper headers result in greater amounts of stalk.
The cob makes up a large part of the weight of the final product, so remember that it becomes less digestible as the corn plant matures. Pioneer Hi-Bred’s data showed that cob digestibility decreased from 65% to 44% between September 13th and October 4th in their field studies. The change in nutrient content is important for dairy producers as it will impact the energy content in beef cattle feeding scenarios.
The amount of energy in earlage varies depending on how it was harvested and how much roughage was included with the grain. Harvest methods that only collect grain and a portion of the cob will produce a higher-energy earlage product than harvest methods that also collect a larger proportion of stalk. This means that the amount of the material included in the ration will depend on the energy it contains and how well it is wanted to perform. Additionally, lower yields of corn will produce lower energy levels of earlage. Earlage is less rich in protein than corn grain, so for desired performance levels, rations based on earlage need additional protein supplementation.
Earlage has very few, if any, feeding limitations. Earlage should be introduced slowly into the diet. This feed is safe to consume because it contains a good amount of fiber. There is little risk of developing acidosis from eating this feed. Earlage can replace a portion of the grain and roughage in most rations. Beef cattle rations that contain earlage will not have enough energy for it to be the sole source of concentrate. You can create a balanced ration for your livestock by combining earlage, a protein supplement, and grain. This will give you the desired levels of performance from your animals.
When To Harvest Corn For Perfect Ears
Corn is a delicious summer staple that is used in a lot of the food we eat in the United States. We use corn in many different ways, whether it is fresh, sweet corn, dried to make cornbread or tortillas. This versatile plant is relied on heavily. Harvesting corn at the right time can be difficult. How can we tell when our corn is ready to harvest if we can’t see the kernels? We need to time it so we can enjoy the sweet fruits of our labor.
How To Identify If Corn’s Getting Close
If you plant your corn in early to late spring, it will be ready for harvest in mid to late summer. Depending on the corn variety, it takes 70 to 100 days to grow from seed. Corn should be planted when the chance of frost is gone and the temperature is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you want to know when to harvest your corn, pay attention to its growth pattern. A single corn plant produces several ears of corn, with the most mature ear always at the top of the stalk. The corn cobs will start out small, and each week they will get bigger. Look for long, white, see-through threads called silks coming out of the top of the ear. They will be moving around in the wind. If you plant your corn close enough together, the pollen from the tassels at the top of the stalks will pollinate the silks, and each kernel of corn will plump up.
Be careful not to harvest too soon. The cobs at the top of the plant are the first to be ready. If they’re not ready, then the rest of the cobs aren’t either. It is best to let your corn develop fully so that it will have a better flavor.
Identify The Type of Corn You’re Growing!
There are several types of corn, which are generally categorized based on their intended use. What type do you want to grow?
While we have a separate article that goes into depth on the types of corn and how they’re used, let’s do a quick summary:
The kind of corn that is grown to be eaten as corn on the cob and eaten fresh is called sweet corn. The corn is picked while it is fresh, and a milk-like substance oozes from the kernels when it is ripe. Immediately after the silk turns brown, the corn is ready to be picked.
Dent Corn (Zea mays var. indentata): The corn that’s used to make homemade corn tortillas. This crop is also known as field corn and can be used to feed animals.
This type of corn is called Flint Corn or Indian Corn. It comes in a range of colors, and can be used to make cornmeal or as animal feed.
Corn flour is made from a variety of corn known as amylacea. This corn is different from the type of corn typically used to make cornmeal.
The popcorn at your local movie theater is made from a type of corn called popcorn, or Zea mays var. everta.
Check For Readiness
Once your ears have plumped up, you should watch the colors of the silks. You can’t harvest them until they turn brown. Although the text does not explicitly say so, you can assume that the author is talking about corn on the cob. To test if the corn is ready to eat, the author suggests gently pulling back some of the husks and pressing your fingernail into one of the kernels. The husks surround and protect the baby kernels, and might be a little difficult to peel back. That’s alright! Give it a good tug and it’ll peel back. To check if the kernels are ready to harvest, see if there is still liquid inside and if it oozes out a milky starch-like substance. If the substance is more watery, it is not yet ready. Gardening can be very satisfying, especially when you’re able to harvest fresh corn right off the plant.
There may be some corn cobs that are not fully plump. The corn cobs usually have a few rows of kernels near the top of the cob that haven’t quite filled out. You can still pick the fruit even though they are undersized and have fewer seeds as a result of under-pollination. There is no way to fix the problem at this stage.
Wait until the husk of hard varieties of corn turn yellow-brown and the plant looks almost dead to pick the cob. The entire crop should be harvested at this point, and the ears should be processed fairly quickly. The kernels must be completely dry or the quality will suffer if picked too soon.
How To Harvest Corn
Harvesting corn is a simple task that can be easily completed by most gardeners! It’s also one of the most satisfying as well. To harvest sweet corn, hold the ear of corn in one hand and bend it downward and away from the stalk. It should snap right off! Handle the corn stalks gently so that you don’t damage them. There may be a few more ears of corn that will be ready to harvest in a week. If you’re unsure of how to start, simply taking a few ears off will help you get more comfortable with the process.
Let your ears of corn dry for 4-6 weeks in the field after the green disappears from the husks. If you’re a gardener, you know it can be tough to be patient. But trust us, your persistence will pay off with fewer health problems and a better-looking crop!
After your hard corn has dried out, remove the dark husk and use your thumb to press against the hardened kernels in order to remove them. Some varieties of corn can be rubbed together to hasten the drying process.