Grain corn is the most-produced crop in the world, with a diverse group of end uses including animal feed, food processing and ethanol. Domestically, 2011 farm cash receipts ranked grain corn the third-most produced crop in the country, with most of it growing in Eastern Canada.
Despite all that corn, Canada remains a net importer. That means there’s plenty of room to grow — particularly in Western Canada, where new genetics have brought profitability. But if everyone jumps on the corn bandwagon, what has to give? Who will grow traditional western Canadian crops, and how will markets react?
Profitability is the name of the game. With canola acres capped at 20 to 22 million, as producers make their crop mix decisions, they’ll look for other methods to increase profitability on other acres. That’s because according to 2011 farm cash receipts, canola and wheat were the most valuable crops in Canada — with corn placing third.
Livestock producers were among the earliest adapters of corn in Western Canada. Corn offers more energy per kernel — and it’s a more efficient feed for the region’s roughly four million beef cow herd and nearly six million head on feed. Grain corn offers versatility too. Ranchers can leave it standing for cattle to graze on in winter months, or silage can be added to feed rations. It offers plenty of benefit to Western Canada’s dairy and hog sectors too.
With new genetics now available, harvesting corn for grain is also a very real option. Dry grain corn will be the largest potential acres for producers and will be used in feedlot rations, human consumption, ethanol or export.
As corn begins to take hold in more acres across the region, producers are expected to replace less profitable crops, such as alfalfa or barley. Corn offers more bang for the buck — and more nutrition value too.
Industry experts estimate there could be up to eight million annual cropped acres of corn down the road. As producers overcome the learning curve that comes with introducing any new crop, infrastructure is expected to keep pace. There are options for equipment solutions, grain bin system expansions and an expanding seed catalogue.
If you’re still uncertain about working corn into your rotation, now might be the time to give it a try. Talk to your seed rep about options for your area, and crunch the numbers to see if, once the learning curve has passed, it’ll make a difference to your operation’s ROI.
Breeanna Kelln is the livestock information manager, Western Canada for DuPont Pioneer.