Corn Silage Data 101: Check Fiber Digestibility Levels

Every grower and nutritionist views data differently based on what’s important to him or her. My goal is to provide as much information about our products to help guide your decision-making and planning process. For simplicity, let’s focus on FIBER and STARCH since these are two major areas that contribute most to best corn silage.


We’ll begin with two quick descriptions:

  • Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF) – a composite measure of the fiber of the plant. We desire lower levels
  • Neutral Detergent Fiber Digestibility (NDFD) – this test is a measurement of how well the fiber will digest at specific time intervals: 24, 30 and 48 hours. The higher the lab number, the better.

Most of the industry, including Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, recognizes the 30-hour interval as standard. Some hybrids, such as Latham® Leafy Hybrids, have a genetic predisposition to higher NDFD levels. Be sure to check out Latham’s silage hybrids for those with high NDFD here.


Starch is a super energy source, so high levels are desirable for corn silage. We usually see starch making up about 50% of the dry matter portion of corn silage. New scientific discoveries have helped us test for specific proteins, called prolamins, that link to starch digestibility. Low levels of these proteins are linked to softer starch corn hybrids, which are much easier to digest.

This is important because higher levels of starch equals more energy. Also, improving starch digestibility helps utilization to energize the animal and less wasted in manure. Having softer starch corn hybrids is especially important for dairy and beef producers who plan to feed the corn silage soon after harvest, where the fermentation period may be shorter. Select Latham brand hybrids that have softer starch with above-average starch digestibility are found here.

Management methods can improve fiber digestibility levels. Hybrid selection and careful data review are two key ways you can increase your operation. I’d be glad to visit with you in more detail about the sampling techniques I use, including in-field evaluation, and bunk/TMR sampling.
Feel free to contact me for assistance as you select seed for next season’s planting!