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Silage season Q and A

SDSU farm management and forage specialists weigh in on corn silage and earlage economics and additives.

What is the value per acre of silage or earlage?

How much silage will the corn crop produce?

What is the cost of the silage delivered to the bunk?

How many acres do you need to cut this year to meet your feed inventory needs?

South Dakota State University Extension field specialists along with the South Dakota Center for Farm and Ranch Management have a Silage/Earlage Decision Aid to help answer those questions.

You put your own numbers into the calculator, and the program does the math, explains Jack Davis, SDSU Extension farm management specialist.

The decision aid has three sections.

Section 1 will calculate the value of a ton of silage or the value per acre. Expected cash corn price, silage dry matter, estimated grain yield, harvesting costs and value of stover removed are all inputs that are required.

Section 2 will calculate the value of a ton of silage when harvest and hauling costs are included and a shrink factor is applied.

Section 3 will calculate the number of acres needed to be harvested to meet the wintering needs of all livestock to be fed this forage. You have to input the number of cows and calves, days to be fed, volume of feed, per head, fed daily and the dry matter content of the silage.

This tool is available in two versions:

One calculates the costs of corn silage standing in the field. Insert values from your farm and the spreadsheet will automatically calculate. Your data is not collected or saved in this form.

The other is downloadable and includes calculations for silage by ton, silage by acre, acreage, earlage and custom expenses; and information about feed composition. It can be saved on your computer.

Find it at igrow.org/agronomy/profit-tips/silage-earlage-decision-aid.

Inoculant questions
Should you use a silage additive this year?

Silage additives can be used to remedy deficiencies such as lack of sufficient population of bacteria to support adequate fermentation and low levels of fermentable carbohydrates, says Karla Hernandez, SDSU Extension forage specialist.

Most of the silage additives are applied as forages are chopped or during the loading phase. They tend to be expensive, but safe and noncorrosive.

The standard silage inoculant, lactic acid bacteria, usually reduces fermentation losses but often increases losses during feeding.

In most cases, if spoiling during feeding has been a problem, the use of lactic acid bacteria may increase overall shrink losses and would not be recommended.

However, if spoilage has not been a problem, then the use of lactic acid bacteria should be considered because it reduces fermentation losses.

Factors that may affect shrink losses include:

• Storage type. Bunkers usually have greater shrink compared to other types of storage structures.

• Chop length. Finely chopped forages can be packed more effectively. However, chopping too finely can result in not enough effective fiber in the diet.

• Filling rate. Slow filling will reduce the rate of fermentation so that pH stays higher for a longer time. Some of the major problems with shrink losses are the air trapped inside the silage. This will promote yeasts and mold, causing serious problems to the final product.

• Delayed packing. Not having enough packing equipment at the pile to keep up with the capacity of today’s silage choppers can be a challenge. Adding a second tractor may be called for to make sure that the silage can be packed thoroughly.

• Delayed covering. Covering a bunker with plastic as soon as possible after filling is the best choice to reduce shrink and spoilage losses.

Source: SDSU

TAGS: Forage
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