The drought is driving many farmers to cut corn for silage rather than harvesting grain, meaning beef producers likely will store and feed more home-raised or purchased silage than usual this fall.

Purdue University beef veterinarian W. Mark Hilton says he has been receiving many calls regarding the value of drought silage. He directs producers to the “Dealing with drought” section on Purdue’s Beef Center website. The site includes several drought resources, including a corn silage calculator for drought stressed corn. Producers can use this tool to determine how much they should pay for silage.

The site also includes an early weaning decision aid, a tool for determining the cost of drought stressed soybeans as baleage and a spreadsheet for calculating the cost of CRP hay and grazing.

Hilton also offers these tips for producing and storing high-quality silage.

  • Be sure and test the silage for nitrates after it ferments, four weeks or more after harvest.
  • When cutting raise the chopper head up as high as possible as the bottom of the stalk has the highest percent nitrate in the entire plant.
  • If you lack storage for silage, use some old concrete or build a hay pad with geotextile fabric covered with limestone for a solid surface. Put your poorest quality round bales of hay or straw to form a ‘bunker’ and put the silage in the ‘bunker’. Pack with a tractor and ideally cover with plastic and tires. You don’t need a fancy storage facility, he says, just a means to get all the air out so the silage will ferment.

 Visit the “Dealing with drought” section on the Beef Center site.