July 29, 2021
Some of the most important decisions dairy farmers make in a year pivot around producing corn silage. This year is of no exception, but now the discussion also falls on how much inventory to have on hand, especially as feed prices are starkly higher compared to previous years.
Scott Bohnert, owner of Bohnert Jerseys in East Moline, Ill., says that at one time he had 24 months of corn silage on hand. “That won’t be the case this year,” he says. “We like to put up at least 15 months of inventory on hand because you just don’t know what the next year will bring.” Bohnert milks 600 Registered Jerseys and raises an equal number of youngstock. They also plant and harvests all their crops. Last year Bohnert put up 5,500 tons of corn silage and won’t begin feeding 2021 corn silage until mid-November.
Brian Vaassen, Midwest regional business manager with Standard Dairy Consultants says that while having a higher feed cost associated with feed inventory is a downside, overall risk management is essential. “I’m still recommending three months carryover minimal to allow for improved starch digestibility before feeding new crop,” he says.
Head southwest to Rexford, Kansas and McCarty Family Farms, LLC. has a unique corn silage model, because they control some of their forage ground by having long-term arrangements with local growers. However, one of the owners, Ken McCarty, says that they have worked and reworked a dozen strategies to figure out what that ideal inventory should be with current market conditions. “We have decided to take some corn planted for silage and take it as grain,” McCarty says. “We have planted dual hybrids and are currently carrying a fair amount of inventory that allows us to do this.”
Four farms located in Kansas and Nebraska fall under the McCarty Family Farms umbrella. All together they milk 8,500 cows and will put up 5,200 acres of corn silage to feed all their cattle.
The weather has been a headline across the country, and this is also true in Northwest Kansas. McCarty says they normally receive 18 inches of rain annually in Rexford, Kan., and this May they received half that amount. While McCarty’s corn looks good considering, they say that in a perfect world six months of carryover is ideal to help with fermentation.
According to Vaassen other considerations or questions that should be asked when determining carryover on each dairy should include:
Risk management - Do we know what next year brings?
Determine accurate feed needs.
What is the dairy’s financial situation?
Is silage purchased or homegrown?
What are the alternate commodities available?
There is not a hard and fast answer in knowing how much carryover to have on hand. “The reality is that many producers have committed to certain amounts of acreage with the producers that grow for them,” says Cody Koster, agent with ever.ag.
Koster continues saying that tonnage becomes the unknown variable and that on great production years the feed pad gets filled heavier than on the poorer ones. And, according to ever.ag, grain balance sheets show an even tighter inventory today than last year. “While prices have risen to reflect that, we don't appear to be causing demand rationing at this time,” Koster says. “What that means is that we can ultimately see much higher prices if any future events or other supply and demand trends should threaten that global inventory any further. Under such a scenario, the more inventory that their financial capacity can carry, the better.”