Fall silage harvest of experimental forage blends
Fall forage harvest has begun at South Dakota State University.
“Forage production continues to be an important part of South Dakota livestock production,” said David Casper, Assistant Professor of Dairy Science. “High quality forages are highly valuable crops and the most economical nutrient sources for meeting the nutritional requirements of livestock.”
Casper said the greater the concentration and digestibility of forage nutrients, the greater the forage inclusion can be in the ration, which lowers feed costs and the cost of production. Casper works with other SDSU faculty to develop new forage crops and blends and evaluating these forages to understand if they meet nutrient requirements of South Dakota livestock.
He is part of a coordinated effort between SDSU Plant and Dairy Science Departments. The team is working on a novel approach to develop blends of specific crops grown in combination for forage production.
“This approach offers livestock producers the opportunity of supplying additional nutrients in the ration in the form of forages,” said Xingyou Gu, Assistant Professor in the Plant Science Department. “Forages are the most economical sources of nutrients on the farm for meeting the nutrient requirements of livestock. Thus, improved nutrient concentrations and digestibilities create opportunities for further lowering the cost of producing meat and milk.”
The Plant and Dairy Science Departments are currently evaluating an inter-cropping system between a new variety of soybean that grows like a vine and a new grazing corn hybrid.
The vining soybean was developed through hybrid breeding of a cultivated soybean named, Glycine max, with wild soybean named, G. soja.
“The soybean and corn seed were sown in alternate rows or mixed to sow so that the vining soybean grows by climbing and wrapping itself around the corn plant,” Gu said.
Gu explained that since soybeans belongs to the legume family, the plants can actually fix nitrogen in the soil that would benefit the corn plant. In addition, soybean plants harvested as haylage are high in crude protein, approximately 20 percent of dry matter, and can be very digestible.
The grazing corn hybrid being evaluated is MasterGraze, which is a high sugar corn that will not produce an ear. MasterGraze will be higher in crude protein approximately 14 percent of dry matter than normal corn silage.
“MasterGraze is a high energy/high sugar and protein corn plant that will readily ensile,” Gu said. “Thus, the combination of soybeans and grazing corn could/will result in the production of a forage blend that is high in both protein and energy.”
Gu, Casper and the rest of the team believe this forage blend has the potential to reduce the cost of growing dairy and beef heifers, beef steers, beef cows, and dairy cows in the dry period by reducing or eliminating protein and energy supplementation, i.e. soybean meal and corn.
To learn more about this research, visit iGrow.org.