Extension publication helps farmers price corn silage

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – As the price of corn goes, so goes the price of corn silage. Knowing how the price of the former will affect the price of the latter can translate into extra dollars in the pockets of farmers.

Purdue Extension has a new publication to help dairy producers and corn silage growers determine those prices. Determining a Value for Corn Silage also contains an online Corn Silage Crop Calculator. The publication, AS-611-W, is free and available at https://mdc.itap.purdue.edu/item.asp?item_number=AS-611-W.

"Corn silage prices depend on the price of grain, and there can be a huge variation in prices," said Tamilee Nennich, a Purdue Extension dairy cattle nutrition specialist and one of the publication's authors. "There are a wide variety of strategies out there with which we can price corn silage."

Corn silage, a forage consisting of corn grain and cornstalks harvested when the corn plant is still partially green, makes up about 30 percent of the dry matter in an average dairy cow's diet. The forage is a good source of fiber and energy for lactating cows.

The $40-$50 per ton that dairy farmers typically pay corn growers for silage often turns into $50-$80 per ton once the dairy producer harvests and transports the forage, and then places it in a silo for fermentation and storage, Nennich said. The silage usually remains in storage for months until it is ready to be fed to cows.

There are many issues dairy producers and corn silage growers should consider when pricing silage. Buyers and sellers will come at it from different perspectives, Nennich said. One such issue is moisture content.

"Corn silage should contain 65-68 percent moisture, but the amount of actual feed dry matter varies and should be taken into account," she said. "Determining the silage dry matter is necessary for arriving at the actual amount of feed that is harvested from a field."

Grain yield is another consideration. A larger grain harvest could portend a higher silage price.

"As a general rule of thumb, you can price silage by multiplying the price of corn per bushel by a factor of somewhere between eight and 10," Nennich said.

The Corn Silage Crop Calculator is a Microsoft Excel-based program that comes in two parts. One part calculates silage price based on silage yield from the field, while the other calculates silage price based on corn grain price. Either part can be used to arrive at a price for corn silage.

In both spreadsheets the farmer will enter data such as corn price per bushel, silage yield per acre or estimated grain yield, percent of corn silage dry matter, harvest/hauling/storage cost and the estimated amount of shrinkage during storage. Results appear as cost of corn silage value per ton and the final cost of silage to producer.

"There are default values built into the calculator, or a silage producer can adjust the values according to what they save in harvesting, drying and storage costs," Nennich said. "The dairy producer can make adjustments on what their cost would be to haul and harvest the corn silage themselves, so that they can see how that affects the final silage price at feeding."

Nennich hopes silage producers and their dairy producer customers do the calculations together. "It can help them arrive at a mutual agreement for corn silage," she said.

Determining a Value for Corn Silage is co-authored by Kern Hendrix, a retired Purdue Extension cattle specialist. The publication is among a series of five new dairy management publications written or co-written by Nennich. All are free for download. Others include:

* Feeding Distillers Grain to Young Dairy Heifers (AS-609-W) - https://mdc.itap.purdue.edu/item.asp?item_number=AS-609-W

* Supplementing Young Grazing Dairy Heifers With Lick Tubs: A Case Study (AS-610-W - https://mdc.itap.purdue.edu/item.asp?item_number=AS-610-W

* Forages and Feeding Dairy Cattle During Drought Conditions (AS-616-W) - https://mdc.itap.purdue.edu/item.asp?item_number=AS-616-W

* Drought and Nutrient Management Considerations for Dairy Farms (AS-617-W) - https://mdc.itap.purdue.edu/item.asp?item_number=AS-617-W



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