Farm Management Minute: Silage pricing and other forage questions
In the past few weeks, a topic of discussion at DakotaFest and around the S.D. Center of Farm/Ranch Management has been how to determine what a field of corn for silage/earlage is worth. I would like to share some of the information that has been found during the research of this topic.
First, just some general information to use in the calculations. On average, corn makes up 50 percent of the total tonnage of silage, with one ton of silage containing six to eight bushels of corn. Using this information, a price for silage can be calculated using the following equation:
Current price of corn ($4.50) x 7 bu/ton (ave yield of corn in silage) + $10/ton for additional fodder = $41.50/ton at 65% moisture
This is just an example and does not take into account immaturity of the corn. If you had immature ears due to drought or frost, the equation would be adjusted using five or six bushels per ton of corn in the silage.
Another equation that can be used to calculate the price of silage is using the hay price as your base. Divide the price of hay by three, which is based on the assumption the extra energy in corn silage is worth as much as the additional protein in hay. Another assumption of this equation is three pounds of corn silage contains the same amount of dry matter as one pound of hay. If hay is worth $120 a ton, corn silage would be worth $40 a ton. This equation does not work very well in years where corn prices are high.
Earlage has also been discussed heavily this summer. Earlage pricing has to be adjusted, depending on the type of harvesting when chopping the earlage. If a snapper/combine header is used, there will be a very low amount of fodder in the earlage. If a chopper-type head is used, there will be more fodder, lowering the value of the earlage. Also, when putting earlage into a silo, there will be additional stress to the silo. Earlage has a higher density than silage, so check and make sure the silo can handle that amount of stress.
If you would like to check your specific scenario without doing the math yourself, the South Dakota Center of Farm/Ranch Management and South Dakota Extension has developed a silage value/silage needs calculator. This calculator can be found at the SDCFRM website (www.sdcfrm.com) under resources and tools or at the S.D. Extension website (www.sdstate.edu/econ/extension/index.cfm). To contact the SDCFRM office or any of our instructors, call 1-800-684-1969 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the Oct. 23, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News