Today’s seed choices reflect the complexity of the expanding forage options available to all animal livestock species. A big factor that is driving these options is the search for lower cost rations that still deliver complete nutrition.
For the dairyman, complete nutrition is a ration that delivers adequate digestible energy and protein balance to support (1) reproduction, (2) health maintenance and (3) profitable production yields. In production yields, you need a ration that delivers the capability of premium value milk components, so again the forms of energy and protein within feeds is going to drive the income opportunity. (More fiber energy= more component yields.)
Increasingly, forages are the key to dairy profitability. The industry practice of adding corn and soybean meal to make up for mediocre forage quality and yield hurts all three of the keys to dairy success (reproduction, health and profitable production). The leading nutritional advisors no longer believe grain corn is the answer to all energy deficiencies.
Is corn silage a key ingredient to your forage program?
Corn silage is a unique feed product on paper, for it is both “forage” and “grain” energy.
In reality, this uniqueness is not harvested by the cow unless the right corn varieties are used—otherwise corn silage is just a bit of fermented grain with gut wad filler, acidifying the rumen. Masters Choice corns recommended for silage have conquered the issues with commodity grain yield corns, as follows:
(1) Floury grain: Instead of a vitreous (hard) shell that reduces the digestible fraction of the kernel to granulhes that are not digested until the small intestine (causing weight gain rather than milk yield) – the soft shell, floury meat of a Masters Choice high energy corn kernel is digested in the rumen, where milk is made.
Commodity corns (which are bred for the 20% of all corn that is exported and has to be hard-shelled to survive augers and rats for long distance shipping) led to development of kernel processors for your chopper. Masters Choice silages with floury grain have no need for kernel processors.
(2) Big leaf canopy: The most overlooked part of the corn plant, but the component that is most like a forage—highly digestible fibers that release energy in the rumen. Any corn that leafs out quickly and fully is going to aid in weed suppression as well.
(3) Low lignin stalks with meaty centers: That “meaty center” of the Masters Choice corn stalk is high in sugars and the outer skin is lower in non-digestible lignin, thus adds meaningfully to the digestible tonnage of the total plant. These sugars work to aid the fermentation of the silage, such that the fermentation process is both faster and produces less heat damage. You do not deal with the management issues in growing BMR corns or the digestive problems they have experienced, either. Masters Choice is pure corn.
The net result of these advantages is more total digestible nutrients per ton of silage.
All which leads to the reason for the title, “Feed Ours First”.
Studies have shown that fresh corn silage in a bunk can take up to three months under usual conditions to complete fermentation. Until fermentation is complete, release of nutrients and associated digestibility of the corn has not optimized. This is why milk production may go down or at least fluctuate when new crop silage is introduced into the milking ration. Why put up with this every year? Masters Choice has the solution.
All of us as farmers have a fixed number of acres on which to grow forages, so in spite of all the new evidence that indicates there may be more milk in less tonnages of an optimal forage, we still tend to buy on yield experiences. This forces cows to eat more feed just to produce the same yield of milk, allows feed guys to add expensive additives to rations to “balance” for more milk (note the extra milk does not earn a higher price, thus higher cost additives lower the profit margin on your incremental production gains).
What if you dedicated 20% of your silage corn acreage to Masters Choice high digestible varieties? Studies have repeatedly shown that all these differences in the MC varieties produce silage that will completely ferment in as little as 28 days. Thus my argument for Feed Ours First. 20% of your silage made from Masters Choice corn will cover your first two months of new silage feeding, allowing other brands of silage the time tests show it needs to properly ferment to the stage where a cow can safely eat it.
Even if you are buying those other brands of corn cheaper than the prices for premium quality Masters Choice corns, this test will prove to make you more money. If you have never grown such a silage corn, you cannot know if your cows would do better.
Your nutritionist and your veterinarian would also have two months to see if the quality of feed can both improve feed conversion to milk and improve reproductive response.
All I can say to that is, those who have transitioned to higher fiber energy and less grain energy in their total ration seem to have better reproduction and cow health, especially as cows calve for additional lactations. Rumen pH is better, thus incidences of acidosis and related metabolic disease are reduced.
It is always fun to brag about our yields to our neighbors. You can always spend $4.00 a bushel in extra inputs to produce $3.00 corn, so you can outyield your neighbor by 20 bushels per acre (you would only lose an extra $100 per acre) – OR you can produce an optimal forage that will lower your total feed costs per hundredweight of milk sold by as much as $1.00. If you are selling 10,000 pounds of milk per corn acre, that would only be a $100 per acre gain—but it is $200 per acre better than bragging rights… On 100 acres of corn, that is $20,000 extra per year on the bottom line!