In most areas of Missouri the hot and dry conditions have taken their toll on crops. This leaves grain producers with decisions to make on how to salvage their crops and livestock producers on how to get enough feed for their animals.
Now, rainfall would be too late to do any good for the corn crop. That leaves us with the question as what options are available for this crop? In years like this we are all trying to figure out the best way to turn this crop into a salvagable product. The methods will vary from farm to farm based on your ability to handle the product and depending on how the drought effected your corn acres.
Baling Dry Corn
We feel baling the corn to feed it is the least attractive option for livestock producers. Baling dry corn forage will be of a lesser feed value and may have greater nitrate problems than other forms of harvest. The nitrate level of the corn may fall as much as 50% during the ensiling process, but when corn is baled dry it does not have the moisture to make the nitrates change chemically. When feeding the dry product in an open pasture as much as 50% waste can be incurred because the cattle will not consume the dry stalks. They will pick through the leaves and leave the stalks as waste.
Even if the corn is high in nitrate, this crop may be able to be grazed. The majority of the nitrate is in the lower 1 foot of the stalk, as a general rule. If feeding, test corn stalks for nitrate and manage accordingly. Cattle turned into a corn field will eat the leaves and shucks first and will not consume the stalk into the ground until they are forced to. This is the cheapest means of handling drought corn, but fencing and water supply can be an obstacle.
There are a couple of ways to graze the corn. One option is to strip graze the standing corn. This will help minimize trampling waste. You would want to give the cattle no more than a 2-day supply of fresh corn at a time. Each acre of standing corn that is 6 foot tall and tasseled should provide enough grazing for 100 cows for one day, or 435 square foot per cow.
Another way to graze the corn is to mow it into windrows. This will make it easier to fence into proper grazing areas. Trampling waste can also be reduced, but there could be some issues later on. If there is any remaining residue it could cause planting problems next spring. Also, since any remaining residue will be concentrated in windrows it may not meet residue requirements for conservation purposes.
It is important to check with professionals prior to turning cattle into drought stressed crops. Your local extension office or livestock specialist are good resources for asking these questions.
Baling Wet Corn
Baling corn wet and then tubing the bales in plastic wrap is a good way to handle this feed. It captures enough moisture that the bales will ensile in the tube, nitrate levels will drop, and the stalks become more palatable for livestock. Baling this product between 50 – 60% moisture will help capture the best feed value and ensure the ensiling process.
Cutting for Silage
This is by far the best choice IF you are set up to handle a bulk product like this. Corn silage should be cut in the 60 – 70% moisture range if using a bag or pit silo and slightly drier if using an upright silo. Packing the silage tightly into an oxygen free environment is the key to a successful ensiling process. Research has shown that drought stricken corn can still have very similar feed value to well eared corn when put up in this manner. Like the ensiled bales, the nitrate level of the corn put in a silo properly could drop by half during the ensiling process.
Taking to Harvest
The last option is taking the corn to harvest. This in itself brings up additional problems with quality. Poor quality grain is hard to sell and never gets better in the bin. As you well know the test weight of this corn will be very low and will carry some significant discounts when marketed. On the bright side this is the easiest option to adjust, but we may miss some other marketing opportunities.
How does Crop Insurance work for this?
You must notify our office of your intention to cut silage or destroy the crop BEFORE doing anything. We will then contact an adjuster to make a field appraisal. At that time, the adjuster will guide you through the appraisal process. The adjuster will calculate an estimated yield and a farm appraisal will be signed. That yield will then be deducted from your guarantee and the claim will be processed. It is important that if you do not agree with the appraisal, do not sign it and call our office.
Once a final appraisal has been signed, the growing crop can be destroyed, grazed or cut for silage at the option of the producer. There is no charge or value held against the forage standing in field, it is the producers crop to put to whatever alternate use they see fit other than to harvest for grain.
Silage or harvesting salvage corn is not for everyone, but it is important to look at the math.
Joe Farmer has a 125 bu APH and insures at 80% level.
His bushel guarantee is 100 bushels per acre times the minimum price of $5.90 per bushel or $590 per acre.
If his corn appraises at 10 bushel per acre he will be paid a minimum of $531 per acre from insurance.
If his corn made 6 ton of silage per acre at $60 per ton, he can add another $360 per acre for the crop harvested.
With this scenario Joe Farmer will net $531 from his crop insurance and an additional $360 from silage for a total return of $891 per acre.