Late corn crop squeezes silage supplies

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University experts suggest dairy farmers take inventory of their corn silage now to assure there will be enough to last through the fall.

Wet spring weather has delayed corn planting across the Midwest which may delay harvest.

“While it is true that planting time is only one factor that affects crop maturity and that planting in warmer soil temperatures will shorten germination time, there is likely to be some delay in corn silage harvest from late planting,” said Mike Schutz, Purdue animal scientist.

“This will be especially true if planting is delayed into or beyond the third week of May.”

What it means. A delay in harvest up to three weeks means that a producer with a 100-cow herd will need an additional 68 tons of silage on hand.

Even when there are no delays, producers should have a three-week supply of the previous season’s corn silage to feed while the newly harvested corn silage ferments, Schutz said.

“Many producers simply place a three-week supply in storage bags or an upright silo that can be fed while the bunkers or other upright silos are filled and fermenting,” Schutz said.

If inventories appear to be too low to last until the 2002 corn silage has fermented, Schutz and agronomist Keith Johnson offer the following alternatives to stretching current inventories:

* Purchase alfalfa hay locally or from western U.S. sources.

* Harvest more alfalfa silage than planned.

* Add commodity feeds to the ration, where affordable.

* Plant alternative forage crops, such as soybeans and field pea or brown midrib sorghum and sudangrass for earlier harvest.

Plan ahead. Planning for a silage shortage now will help producers better manage a gradual transition if feed changes are necessary, Schutz said.

A gradual transition to other feeds is better for cow health, is less disruptive to their rumens, and helps sustain feed intake and milk production, Schutz said.

Producers should check with their nutritionists to determine if changes should be made now to extend the remaining corn silage and allow a smooth transition to new crop silage.

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