Many are watching the weather, wondering if the corn crop will mature before a killing frost. We have had cool weather which slowed crop development and then some very hot weather but a lack of moisture. What will September bring?
Across the state, many acres of corn were planted late. Will it mature enough for dry corn, high moisture grain or should it be chopped for corn silage? If corn will not make corn grain, selling it as corn silage is a possible option if there are livestock producers in need of feed. But how do you price it?
No matter how much corn grain is in silage, the correct moisture for harvest is still around 65%. This is critical to good preservation and the digestibility of the forage and grain portions of the plant.
Pricing corn silage is not as easy as pricing grain alone. It is a feed with many variables such as moisture content, grain content, and NDF content and NDF digestibility. All of these factors affect the feeding value of corn silage. Research conducted in Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio indicates that the average corn silage of 35% starch would have approximately seven bushels of corn in every wet ton of corn silage. This provides us a starting point. Optimal silage quality as determined by the milk per ton would be at the R5.5 stage (half milk line) and harvested at 65% moisture. Two critical points to agree on are:
- What price are we using for corn?
- How will we weight it or determine how much is harvested?
The price of corn agreed on this year is more important than in past years due to the wide basis between new and old crop corn. It is currently over $1.00/bu or more in most markets. In the past we might have used the average price for the week the corn was harvested. This year I would suggest something closer to the price of new crop corn as the starting point. For ease of calculations, let's use $4.50/bu for the price of corn. This would equal $31.50/wet ton of corn silage ($4.50 x 7 = $31.50). If we used $5.00/bu, it would equal $35.00/ton. But what if there are only 3 bushels of corn grain per wet ton of silage? Is it worth only half as much? The answer is most likely no. If the corn silage is harvested at 65% moisture, the vegetative portion is likely to be as digestible as regular corn silage. While it may not yield as many tons per acre, what is harvested will be only 10 to 15% lower in digestible energy and likely higher in protein. It will be important to work with your nutritionist to formulate your diets because this energy will be coming from digestible fiber and not starch.