It is now July, well past corn planting. What do we do with the fields that we still have not planted yet? Unless you are desperate for high energy forage, it is getting to late for even BMR Sorghum Sudan. You might get one cutting by the beginning of September. There are several, better options still open.
As the graph at right shows, by June 15, there is little grain produced on corn silage. Grain that is produced will be wet and very high in sugars, setting marginal rations up for bouts of acidosis, feet problems, low production, and abuse of nutritionists. You are harvesting nearly all stover.
The Northeast US and Canada are sitting under their own personal rain cloud. A number of farms are facing a corn crop half planted and hay crop ready to harvest and little or no sun in the forecast. The more successful farms are using one pass minimum tillage or one pass deep zone tillage that is set for shallow (6 inch) depth. That allowed them to slip in acreage on the few sunny days. Those who took advantage of fall killing their sods are successfully no till planting.
Yes, the cost of nitrogen is up, but not as much as the cost of soybean meal. Dairy animals need protein, and you can either buy it or grow it. If you check back on the January 2011 newsletter on the web site, you will see that it is cheaper to grow protein in forage, especially with legumes. When we checked in 2001, it was cheaper to grow protein than buy soy. Our recalculation in 2011 shows the same. Keep in mind that the graph presented has all the cost being borne by the protein in the plant. Both legumes and grasses have 85 – 90% of the energy level of corn silage if harvested correctly.
Red clover has the reputation of an ugly duckling. “Isn’t that the wet slop we quit growing a number of years ago?” Unfortunately, because of this attitude, many farms are attempting to grow alfalfa on ground that will not support alfalfa. The stands only last 1 – 2 years before they thin to less than 50% legume and expensive nitrogen additions are needed to keep the field productive (note: I did not say profitable).
First low milk price, then as it started to increase, the cost of grains have shot through the roof. How do you get your income out of this cost price squeeze? To maximize production, dairy cows need a balanced nutrition meeting their protein and energy needs, in an effective fiber mix, at lowest cost, while the
animal is in a comfortable environment.
As more farms successfully move to the profitability of high (>60%) forage and very high (>70%) forage diets; the forage production becomes ever more critical.
Legume production is key to 1: reducing the need for expensive soy meal whose protein costs 3x more than protein from alfalfa (lower cost of producing milk); 2: high nitrogen prices – legumes can fix a tremendous amount of nitrogen/a/ year compared to grass stands that need purchased N; 3: first year rotated corn after legume needs no additional side dressed nitrogen.
In the effort to save on seed costs, some farms are reducing the plants/acre in their stand. The comments often come in regard to the BMR or leafy types that they do best at lower populations. This may not be the most economical move based on an excellent study by Dr. Cox and his staff at Cornell.
Corn silage is the premier high energy feed on most dairy farms. In corn silage, 55 – 60% is true forage and so fiber digestibility is a key factor in selection for your farm. Normal corn varieties will range 5 – 6 units of NDFd while BMR types add another 5 – 6 units of variability. For every 1 unit increase in NDFd, you gain .55 lbs of 4.0 fat corrected milk. Thus many farms have selected for high digestible fiber and a large number are planting Brown Mid Rib even where they have a greater chance of taking a significant yield hit.
It is not too late to help legumes overwinter. In a summary of soil samples in an Eastern NY county, (Graph # 1) shows that 55% of the fields soil tested, would NOT respond to more potassium fertilizer. Many of these fields are corn fields with manure as 30 tons applies over 250 lbs of potash/acre.