May 2024 BMR Male Sterile Sorghum: Breakthrough Energy Forage

BMR Male Sterile Forage Sorghum:

a Breakthrough Energy Crop

On-going field research data is giving increasing proof to the advantages of BMR male sterile forage sorghum as a replacement for corn silage.  Multiple replicated trials with proper nutrient-enhancing delayed harvest, were conducted in several states.  The data found the crop has the ability to produce at less cost, nearly the same milk as corn silage but with better components. Conventional dairy farms are finding that it is 90% cheaper for the seed to grow sorghum than corn silage and that is before we factor in all the fungicide sprays we have to put on corn but not sorghum.  Corn stops growing at 85F, while sorghum grows to 105F – you get more growth out of the season.  Deer hide in it and come out to eat the neighbors’ corn.  Its natural prussic acid wipes out corn rootworms so corn can be planted the next year after without damage.  It is direct harvested with one cut and with no grain you don’t have to expend extra cost and fuel for processing.

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April 2024 Maximize Dairy Output with Maximized Forage

Maximize Dairy Profit and Output by

Maximizing Digestible Forage Fiber Input


Milk prices are down and putting a squeeze between the dairy and the concentrate purchased to maintain milk production.  One advantage of being around for a long time (when we milked mammoths) is that we have seen this before.   It doesn’t make it any more pleasant. The early 1980’s were very hard times with many farms not making it.  We had a repeat scenario in 2014 when grain prices went through the roof.  We are seeing a version of this again in 2024. Ironically the breakthrough we had in early 2000 is still viable today.

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March 2024 Optimizing Winter Forage

Optimizing Winter Forage Quality and Quantity


The winter is coming to an end much faster than normal years.  People in New York say they had less winter than we did in Tennessee (8-inch blizzard – we rarely get 1 inch; and 9 below 0 temp-never that cold). In any case, the winter forage and the grasses are greening up and starting to roll.  This is one of those years where you can move early (now) to get a jump on the season.  The enormous amount of spring growth on both crops demands sufficient nitrogen and sulfur to optimize the yield and especially the quality.   There are many ifs, and’s, and buts leading to the best nitrogen rate to apply in the spring.   Recommended rates can be from zero to 250 lbs. of N/a.  You can’t change what happened last fall, but you can use it to determine the optimum N fertilization.

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January 24 Price of Ash in Forage

How much milk does your dirt support?

The title is simply looking at the amount of ash in your forage. Forage has minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and others that compose a portion of the ash measurement. Unfortunately, it also has a sometimes-significant amount of plain dirt mixed in during harvest. It is original dirt on the plant (raindrop splash, flooding), but mostly dirt incorporated from mower knives cutting too close and digging in the soil; dirt incorporated by tilted knife updraft, and dirt incorporated by tedders, rakes, and improperly run mergers.


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August 2023 Why Winter Forage

Over the past 25 years, we have worked on focusing the management steps for high yield with triticale winter forage.  These were summarized as recently as the July 2023 issue.  While focusing on the trees, we missed talking about the whole forest – why winter forage?  What initially started out as a cover crop, is now a premier forage in the normal part of crop rotation, for increasing number of dairy farms across the US and into Canada.  Ironically, you still have all the cover crop benefits – but with the elevated management and high yields it is a cover crop with your benefits magnified.  It is also one of the most profitable crops to grow.


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July 2023 Getting High Yield Winter Forage

Winter forage is NOT harvested cover crop.  A cover crop is a cheap seed that is tossed out and if it turns green is considered a success.  Winter forage is selected for high yield and winterhardiness; deliberately planted on time with a drill and fall fertilized for maximum yield potential. The difference between the two in the spring is huge.  The other difference is that with the higher level of management, the winter forage gives soil and environmental benefits equal to cover crops on steroids.  The benefits are far above a simple “cover crop”.


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June 2023 High Energy Forage for Organic

Working with numerous farms over the past 40 years, it has always been frustrating to see organic farmers trying to do the impossible simply because “real farmers grow corn”.  They plant the corn as high energy forage necessary for all profitable livestock production.  It is critical that it be cultivated on a timely basis or weeds will overwhelm the crop.  The result of repeated cultivation is that it loosens (super aerates) the soil which oxidizes organic matter vital to the soil’s health and structure.   Loose soil on slopes is very vulnerable to rain washing it away the most productive part.  The biggest issue is that the multiple cultivations come at the same time and in the same nice weather as the first cutting hay crop.  Critical hay harvest is delayed for the corn’s benefit.  When hay is at peak quality there is nothing on the farm that is more important than harvesting and storing that quality.  You are losing money literally by each day the harvest is delayed.  But you must cultivate, or you will not have a corn crop.


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May 2023 Life after winter forage

Note: For northeast and north central, triticale and rye are rapidly approaching harvest stage. It was driven by that short burst of warm weather.  The region is now facing extended rainy weather to delay harvest.  The silver lining is that the temperatures are supposed to be below 60 during the day and lower 40F, upper 30F at night.  When this happens the quality of the forage often holds.  I have had headed triticale with the same digestibility as flag leaf when these conditions occur.  The 12 hour NDFd may drop but the 30 hour NDFd holds. Thus the forage may still be good for high producers and excellent for the middle group.  If you are forced to make wetter forage, we suggest to chop it like we learned with  sorghum – 3/4 to 1 inch long to reduced leachate. Use a homolactic inoculant and we suggest a higher rate to make up for potentially lower sugars.  We have made perfectly fermented triticale at upper teens and lower 20 dry matter.  We don’t like hauling all that water but you may not have a choice with the weather hand dealt this year.

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April 2023 Sorghum Good Bad Ugly


The last newsletter covered the research breakthrough of enhanced nutrition in BMR forage sorghum.  Now for the rest of the story.


With the data from the 8th-week harvest, Dr. Larry Chase of Cornell University entered it into the Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System model.   This gives us a prediction of how it would work in a real ration.    The ration was balanced for an 85 lb./day production level.  For the 2022 season, we went 8 weeks after heading (same as corn silage after tasseling) instead of the 6 of the 2020 season (right side of table below).  The longer enhanced nutrition of the 8th week required only 0.6 of a pound of corn meal to equal a good corn silage in the diet.  This was the same for the Pennsylvania trial and the Northern NY trial.  The 2020 study which only went 6 weeks after heading required 0.9 lbs. of corn meal.

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March 2023 Enhanced Nutrition Sorghum

The hypothesis we first broached in 2020 SARE research grant (Jan 2021 click to see) supporting the use of male sterile BMR sorghum with nutrient enhance harvest, has been validated by our Sorghum Check-Off repeated replicated research.  Normal sorghum will have fertilized seeds at the top of the plant.  The nutrients formed by photosynthesis after seed fertilization are preferentially moved to the seed sink much like a corn plant moves nutrients to the kernel on the ear.  The difference is that the seeds of sorghum quickly get very hard and are not digested in the rumen.  Their small size makes any processing difficult without destroying the forage effective fiber and turning the crop into soup.   Additional research found that breaking the seed does little to increase the digestibility and the broken seed’s nutrition is lost out of the back of the cow.  Adding insult to injury, having several pounds of seed at the top of an 8 to 12 foot stalk is a setup for lodging.  Multiple times in my research we had a high yielding crop that was completely lodged before reaching harvest maturity.


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