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Corn Silage Seed Considerations When Grain Prices Move Higher

Anna-Lisa Laca

December 15, 2020

As producers sit down to evaluate corn silage varieties, it’s important to evaluate how corn prices will influences your selection. Daniel Olson, founder of agronomy consulting group Forage Genetics, says producers should consider a few factors when deciding silage varieties as corn prices move higher.

“We always look at what the cost of byproducts are and what the cost of grain is. The goal is to of course get the most amount of production, with the lowest amount of cost,” he says. “And for the past 3-5 years we've said, ‘Well we can buy shell corn for less money than we could grow it.’ And I think that's still true in parts of the country, but it's definitely changing now that shell corn is over $4. Honestly, it would not surprise me to see $5 corn sometime in the next year.”

That said, Olson recommends producers consider these five factors when thinking through seed selection.

1. Don’t overreach on maturities. “The upside on longer maturity corn is always there,” he says, “but the consistency of starch becomes more variable when you overreach on that.” He says many of the clients he works with are considering moving back 3-5 days this year because assuring starch content is critical when corn grain is expensive.

“The grain yields on varieties with a five-day difference or 10-day different maturity are almost the same,” Olson explains. “Generally, it's just the fodder that really increases as we look to increase our days. And so, moving four or five days back from what you historically have been doing is not a bad move.”

2. Don’t increase populations. “Overreaching on [plant] populations is another way to kill starch content,” Olson says. “Keep your populations low, maybe move them a little lower than you historically have done and focus on hybrids that have more flex that can respond to that and give you that starch upside.”

3. Make sure your starch quality is really good. When it comes to ground corn, make sure it's actually processed correctly and the micron size is small enough, Olson advises. “When it comes to hybrid selection focus on flowery grains and the retention time on flowery greens is so much longer than regular slicky type corns,” he says. “Extent is just as important as rate and if you can extend that out, you're able to capture a lot more that starch in the rumen where it really matters.”

4. Consider multipurpose hybrids. “We're probably going to move some farms away from BMRs and into more multipurpose type hybrids for this year,” he says, adding farmers should not do that without a plan to bring in digestible fiber somewhere else if need be, either through other forages, soy hauls or some other byproduct. “Somehow you have to get that digestible fiber back in the diet or else you're going to give up some performance. But it’s a decision that should definitely be on the table.”

5. Stay away from the “leafy” varieties. “Those tend to have, you know, pretty horrible starch levels on average,” he says. “So, we'll stay away from the leafy varieties for lactating cows.”

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