Predictions for 2022 are in, and feed prices will continue to run high due to increased demand and the continuing production and shipping issues felt around the world. Producers, already squeezed, would be wise to reassess their seasonal forage plan to maximize yield and quality.
Corn silage costs are high for a number of reasons. First and foremost, there is a global labor shortage. Agriculture, shipping, trucking, processing, packing, and other industries have reported continued issues with keeping their workforce fully staffed and well. These shortages result in disrupted work schedules and goods are taking longer to produce, harvest, process, and ship than ever before.
In addition to labor issues, supply chain disruptions have rocked nearly every industry. Producers are seeing this play out in many aspects of the farm- chemicals, fertilizer, plastic, and a thousand other items that normally are available at the click of a button or a touch of the phone screen are now more expensive and rarer.
In this environment, many dairy and beef farmers are getting back to basics. What you do grow for feed should be of the highest quality and preserved as best as it can. When milk prices are low and feed costs are high, the margins matter even more.
The quality of the silage produced is the first key to keep costs under control- monitor moisture and harvest at the best time to get the most nutrition from your crops. Check chop length and cut height to ensure easy digestibility and reduce the presence of mycotoxins from the soil.
Once harvested, crops rapidly lose nutritional value. Ensiling properly will ensure you have optimum nutrition available when needed. Spread only what you can properly pack- usually 4-6 inches per run. Pack heavily, taking your time to get enough weight on the silage. The industry standard in the US is a density of 15 lbs per cubic foot, which requires approximately 1,000 pounds of packing weight per ton of silage delivered per hour. Getting to 17-20 lbs per cubic foot density can reduce dry matter loss and increase your value per ton.
Once packed, cover immediately with an oxygen barrier plastic to begin fermentation and protect your investment. The plastic should be applied by a team wearing rubber boots or sneakers to avoid putting holes in it, and any rips or tears should be patched immediately. A reusable cover over the plastic underlay is a great way to reduce plastic usage, save money over time, and provide robust physical protection of the silage. In today’s market, corn silage has a nutritive value over $100 per ton. By reducing dry matter loss at every step in the process, you’ll have more feed for your herd and more money in your pocket.