Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Could Sorghum Silage Replace Corn Silage for Cow Feed?

I was calculating our cost of production for the corn silage we grow out at SDSU Cow Camp in Miller, SD the other day and it really grabbed me that corn silage isn’t as competitive on a cost basis as it used to be.

It is still the cheapest forage feedstuff we have, no doubt about it, but when our cost runs $33.12/T, I realized we are going to have to start to do something a little different.

Don’t get too excited if you currently grow silage for your cows, we have fairly poor soils right where we are at and corn doesn’t yield very well, even in good years, so we have fewer tons to spread fixed costs over than most.

If you look at the average cost of growing corn silage East River from 2008, you can see that I am dealing with a little different situation than most. The 2009 data is currently being tabulated, but isn’t available yet:

In any event, even at $27/T, the average cost of corn silage is running about 37% higher than it was even 4 years ago. I expect the 2009 data will show that the cost has come down a little from 2008 as fertilizer prices have stabilized and fuel is a little cheaper. But still this is a problem that may need some attention.

The point is to show you an analysis I did in response to the fact that I don’t feel we can afford to grow corn for silage for cattle feed any longer at our location.

Last October I toured Richardson Seed Company in Vega, TX with the guys from Millborn Seeds in Brookings, SD. The Richardson outfit was a mecca of sorghum research. Not many universities or private companies do much research with sorghums anymore, but there was some real cutting edge stuff these guys were working on.

To make a long story short, the information I gathered led me to wonder if corn silage varieties could be replaced with sorghum varieties. I think there is some real potential here considering the following:
1) The seed is cheaper
2) It requires much less fertilizer
3) It requires much less water
4) It yields about the same
5) The new BMR trait varieties put forage quality on par with corn

Of course there are a couple of down sides:
1) It’s not round-up ready
2) Short-season varieties still run about 115 days (an 90 day would be nice,but I’m not sure there is one available)

When you look at the projected cost comparison it really starts to look attractive and a person might be able to overlook the down sides.

So when you compare the average cost of conventional corn silage to projected costs of sorghum silage, I am seeing a possible decrease in cost of 42%. Not bad.

I will be growing some test plots out at Miller this summer to test yield, quality, cost of production, etc. I’ll let you know what I find out.

The variety I will be using for the test is the MS7000 variety from Millborn Seeds in Brookings.

You can copy and paste this link into your web browser if you want to look at the spec sheet on it

1 comment:

  1. Another market for Sweet Sorghum Silage is my company, BioStar Industries, Inc. We have a process to convert sorghum crops to a crop that could produce $60 to $100 a ton for the producer! If anyone is interested, my email address is . We generate Joint Ventures with our producers and they don't have to put up a nickel! Only the minimal acreage land site with power and water available for our Sugar Conversion Plant and sorghum storage! Unless you are a very large producer, it takes a smaller group of producers to make it fly! Frank Hooper, President (BioStar Industries, Inc.)