We have market prices for corn, alfalfa and grass hay reported routinely. That is not the case for corn silage, and it makes calculating the economics of silage complicated. Silage can be very economical when taking into account the nutrients gained from applying manure back onto the field.
Typically corn silage is priced based on the corn grain price because the alternative for a farmer is to just harvest the crop for grain. Therefore, we choose to price silage based on the price of corn grain in the field. Corn price typically increases from harvest to the following summer, and the increase is roughly equivalent to storage cost. So the value of corn grain in the field is equal to fall price minus harvest costs.
Silage harvest removes more plant nutrients than accounted for in the grain. However, if manure produced from feeding the silage is applied to the field, then the net value of silage increases. Accounting for a 10 percent shrink in the silo, bunker or bag increases the cost per ton a bit. The silage shrink and manure credit are very important to the economics.
One method for comparing values of forages is to calculate the cost per unit of energy. Estimates using this calculation suggest corn silage, especially when fed with distiller’s grains, can be a very economical feed.
To hear Dr. Klopfenstein’s full presentation, visit http://beef.unl.edu/silage-beef-cattle-conference to watch the video, listen to a summary or read the 2016 Husker Corn Silage Conference proceedings. The conference was sponsored by Lallemand Animal Nutrition, the University of Nebraska Extension and the Iowa Beef Center.