What’s a fair price for corn silage?
That question is difficult to answer due to the number of factors involved that are dynamic and biologically variable. Some factors include production costs; grain price; harvesting costs; costs of handling, hauling and storing forage; grain drying costs; fertility and organic matter value of stover; and forage quality (especially starch content and neutral detergent fiber digestibility).
The amount of moisture also has a major influence on corn’s feed value and needs to be considered to determine fair silage prices accurately. Before making any decision, consult an insurance agent for additional impacts on indemnity payments for the sale of silage versus grain.
Here are some thoughts to consider if you are a buyer or seller.
If you are the buyer (livestock feeder), start with the price you are willing to pay for ready-to-feed silage. When pricing in-the-field values, take into account these discounts: lower feed value due to drought stress, cost of harvest and making silage, transportation and any feeding loss.
For example, if the value of the ready-to-feed silage is $55 per ton, you need to deduct 10 percent, or $5.50 per ton, because of the lost feed value as the result of it being drought-stressed corn. You also need to deduct the cost of harvesting and silage making, or $12 per ton ($60 per acre, the custom rate for chopping and hauling, divided by 5 tons per acre), which leaves you with a maximum value of corn in the field of $37.50 per ton.
If you are the seller (corn producer), look at the value of the corn for grain and the fertilizer value that will be removed if the entire plant is harvested. For example, if the estimated yield is 5 tons of forage and 37 bushels of grain per acre, the value of the fertilizer removed from silage is $80 per acre, or 5 tons x $16 per ton, and the value of the grain is $222 per acre (37 bushels x $6 per bushel). This example is based on the assumption that 12 pounds of nitrogen is removed per ton (12 x $.60, which equals $7.20 per ton); 4 pounds of phosphorus is removed per ton (4 x $.55, which equals $2.20 per ton) and 12 pounds of potassium is removed per ton (12 x $.55, which equals $6.60 per ton).
Then you need to deduct the harvest and marketing cost of $28 per acre, leaving you with a value per ton standing in the field of $274 per acre, or $54.80 per ton.
If you decide to harvest the crop for ensiling, the main consideration will be proper moisture for storage and fermentation. The crop will look drier than it is, so moisture testing will be critical. Be sure to test whole-plant moisture of chopped corn to ensure that acceptable fermentation will occur. Use a forced-air dryer, oven, microwave, electronic forage tester, near infrared reflectance spectroscopy or the rapid “grab-test” method for your determination.