Corn Challenges for Dairy

URBANA - Illinois dairy producers face three different situations as fall weather returns and they consider options for their corn crops, said a University of Illinois Extension dairy specialist.
calendar icon 13 September 2007
clock icon 2 minute read

"Drought-stressed corn silage can be a good economic decision as hay prices exceed $150 a ton.

Mike Hutjens.

"In northern Illinois, an excellent corn crop was developing when some areas received four to 15 inches of rain, leaving some corn submerged in five feet of 'dirty' water as creeks overflowed and river bottomland flooded," said Mike Hutjens. "Corn was left standing in water for several days, and as the corn was in the upright position, water was trapped in the husk. The end results of this include delayed harvest, mold and mycotoxin formation in the grain, rotting of the corn plant, risk of lodging, dirt contamination on and in the corn plant, and the germination of corn on the cob."

Producers in these areas should consider strategies such as harvesting when possible at the optimal dry matter content for silage or grain. They should monitor the formation of mycotoxins, and store silage that is convenient to discard if it becomes unwholesome.

Producers in southern Illinois face another situation. There, rains stopped in June with some areas not receiving significant moisture in July and August.

"The corn crop is burned up and dead, ranging from three feet in height with no corn due to pollination and heat stress, and variable grain fill in pollinated cobs--the size of the kernel and number of kernels," he said. "Alternatives for dairy managers include purchasing stressed corn as a forage extender.

"Drought-stressed corn silage can be a good economic decision as hay prices exceed $150 a ton. Double-crop soybeans can be another economic forage source if this crop has not been setting pods under heat and moisture stress."

In central Illinois, however, Hutjens said conditions are right for a huge corn crop with yields over 200 bushels per acre.

"This means that 25-plus tons of corn silage per acre is possible," he said. "Starch content in corn silage could exceed 30 percent of the dry matter. Forage quality and quantity are excellent."

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