Q. We are planning to ensile corn stover at 50% dry matter (DM) with molasses, rolled corn and an inoculant. Would the resulting silage be of high enough quality for beef cattle?
A. Ensiling is a great option for corn stover, provided that it is properly managed. Adding molasses will provide a food source for the lactic acid bacteria, which are for the main drivers of the ensiling fermentation. I'd recommend no less than 66 pounds of molasses per ton of corn stover. Be sure to keep the stover chop short enough to allow a good mix and proper compaction within the silo while maintaining its physically effective fiber value. You can use a tub grinder to shorten the particle length.
Using a liquid inoculant at a high dilution rate will help provide moisture to get to the overall 50% DM level you stated and will help with good distribution through the material. The inoculant should contain a homolactic strain of bacteria to drive a fast, efficient fermentation and accelerate the initial pH drop. The high dose-rate Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 will help improve aerobic stability and minimize spoilage. In addition, consider using an inoculant with enzymes to help break down the fibrous portion of the stover and make it more readily digestible in the rumen.
Corn stover has an energy value of about 0.79 Mcal.lb ME, it can be used alone or mixed with rolled corn grain to replace some of the nutrients lost due to not ensiling whole plant corn, i.e. with the ears intact. If you are aiming for an end product that is a good feedstuff, consider adding about 200 pounds of rolled corn grain for every 100 pounds of corn stover. That would result in a mix with approximately 25% to 27% starch which can be used in many beef rations.
Be sure to send a sample of the ration to a laboratory for analysis. This can help you adjust it for the specific needs of your beef cows, or steers and your overall objectives.
I hope this information helps.
The Silage Dr.