INDIANAPOLIS — Growing a high-quality corn silage crop starts at day one. Now is the best time for producers to build a plan for the upcoming growing season.
“With feed costs close to 60 percent of a dairy operation’s budget, the choices a producer makes now will not only impact the upcoming growing season but also profitability down the road,” says Jon Erickson, Mycogen Seeds commercial agronomist. Producers who take the time to build a high-quality plan now can stay on track and protect their investment.
Erickson offers the following tips for producers to get a strong start for 2018 and beyond.
Assess how the 2017 crop performed
As producers begin feeding the 2017 corn silage crop, they should track how it is performing in the bulk tank.
Producers can use results from silage testing and milk records to determine if last year’s seed selection was the right fit for the operation and review how in-season management may have played a role in its quality.
Starting here in the planning process can help producers adjust the rest of their plan and find opportunities for improvement in the field in 2018.
2 Explore innovations
This time of year, there are plenty of conferences, trade shows and meetings happening across the country during which experts share new research within the agriculture and dairy industry.
These opportunities give producers a chance to take time away from the farm to gain information about the latest management options for the farm.
3 Build a planting plan
Choosing the right corn silage hybrids is only one part of producing high-quality silage. Now is the time for producers to consult their agronomist and field team to determine where to place those hybrids and at what populations.
For highly digestible corn silage hybrids, a plant population between 32,000 and 34,000 seeds per acre is generally a good fit. This allows each plant to establish a strong stand and receive enough nutrients.
Plant singulation and even emergence are also important factors in maximizing yield — producers should ensure their planters are calibrated and maintained for success at planting.
4 Plan for extra silage supply
It also is important for producers to consult their nutritionist to determine the acreage and yield needed to produce enough corn silage for the year, as well as their risk management strategy.
Planning can protect the herd’s nutrition plan if unfavorable weather causes low yield or a low-quality corn silage. The extra supply also can help producers transition into new corn silage after fermentation — this helps reduce fluctuations in production and performance when switching to new forages.
5 Determine a crop management plan
It is never too early to start mapping out crop management needs by analyzing soil samples and field fertility, by reflecting on what happened last year and by determining how to combat common in-season weeds, pests and diseases.
Local seed advisers and agronomists can offer advice based on regional disease and insect pressures, can help producers determine in-season herbicide, nutrient and fungicide applications and can plan ahead by selecting the appropriate traits or seed treatments.
Getting the corn silage crop off to a strong start can pay dividends for years to come.