The “perfect” chop length can benefit both ensiling and forage quality. Yet, finding the correct chop length is easier said than done.
In general, a short chop length aids in packing and, consequently, minimizes air infiltration. On the other hand, a longer chop length increases effective dietary fiber. For example, corn that isn’t processed or shredded should be chopped at a theoretical length of cut (TLC) of 0.25" to 0.5".
Kernel-processed corn should be chopped at a 0.75" TLC, while a TLC of 1" is recommended for shredding processors.
The ensiling structure can also affect chop length decisions. Count on bagged silage being further mechanically disrupted and choose a slightly longer chop length.
For most other forage crops, chop length can vary from 0.25" to 0.375", depending on how much of the ration consists of silage. To maintain good rumen function with all-silage rations, a 0.375" TLC is generally preferred to shorter chop lengths.
Additional details on harvesting for high-quality silage is available in a five-minute video available from Lallemand Animal Nutrition. The free video is available at https://www.youtube.com/user/LallemandAnimalNutri.
For additional tips on producing high-quality silage, visit www.qualitysilage.com or Ask the Silage Dr. on Twitter or Facebook.