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Wider Rows Reduce Waste Of Grazed Corn

2 010 turned out to be a very challenging year for livestock feed production. In some places, even if you got a crop in, it was too wet to even try to get the feed off. There were a few people who got corn in this spring in the hope it was going to produce tonnage for winter feed supplies.

This was year seven of our corn trials, and it proved to be challenging. We used 21 varieties and experimented with three seeding rates with one variety. It was seeded on grazed corn stubble with no applied fertilizer. The field was tandem disced April 30 and then cultivated May 24. The plots were seeded June 7 with a Kinze corn planter with 34-inch rows at 26,500 seeds per acre. Between rows four and five, we inter-row seeded a row of LS0065RR soybeans inoculated with Apex Pro inoculant. On June 28, a couple of strips of a Roundup Ready sugar beets was broadcast on the surface just to see how they would grow and what the cows would think of them. The field was sprayed using RT540 twice at 1.5 litres per acre.

At Friendly Acres Seed Farm, we were fortunately “drier” than most places — we only got 24 inches of rain (610 mm) of rain from April 1 to September 30, instead of our usual seven inches. With row-planted crops, wheel tracks can create larger damage by running over a complete row for the entire length of the field, so narrow tires and accurate driving will influence yields somewhat more than other crops. Of course, now we have ruts to contend with.

THE GROWING SEASON

Corn development was fairly slow due to the lack of sunshine and excessive rain. The field has a high water table and the added rain caused significant ponding in the field and even worse next to the road. Corn does not tolerate much ponding, and ours did not look great all year, especially beside the road.

This year, we used varieties from Prairie Pacific Seeds, Canamaize, Maizex and Hyland, covering corn heat units from 1900 to 2600. To keep things simple, Roundup Ready and Agrisure varieties were used. There were a couple Bt varieties and one triple-stacked variety.

We have got to the point where the varieties in the trial are all fine stemmed, feminine true silage varieties. Feminine varieties are more palatable for grazing and the animals leave less stalk. Masculine varieties work well for silage, but we found them to have lower utilization in grazing situations. Grain varieties will have higher lignin, will drop their leaves faster, and will only want to produce one cob per plant. A “dual purpose” is a variety grain producers complain is too tall. Seeding rates on these “dual purpose” will be traditionally higher than true silage varieties.

SEEDING RATES, SPACING AND EQUIPMENT

In 2009, our seeding rate by mistake was 16,000 seeds per acre, with no check of a more normal seeding rate. In spite of this, our tonnage was very acceptable. This year we tried 26,500, 19,000, and 30,000 seeds per acre with HL SR35 as a seeding rate demonstration. Water damage reduced the tonnage for the 26,500 rate, but the 19,000 and 30,000 seeds per acre rates came up with similar numbers (30,000 seeds was four per cent higher yielding with an extra $27.62/acre cost). This is a one-year trial under high water stress using a silage variety. Initial numbers look very close for feed quality. Using a grain corn variety, I expect the lignin numbers to increase dramatically, more coarse stalks and more mature cobs, which can lead to more concerns about grain overload.

With the wider row spacing and more uniform seed placement, we are noticing a reduction of animal trampling, improved grazing and very uniform cob development. In 2009, we noticed a 25 per cent tonnage increase by using a planter over an air seeder. It is not a big deal if you are looking at trying corn but long term, it would pay to pick up a corn planter fairly quickly. A finger planter would be the first choice for most people. A plate planter requires specific seed size and shape. A finger planter is able to pick up one seed at a time, regardless of the shape or size.

As a quick summary, tonnage was slightly below our average, at 12.5 wet tonnes per acre and 2.75 tonnes per acre dry matter. Ranges of the dry tonnes ranged from 1.50 tonnes to 5.07. Part of the reason for the range is due to water damage and somewhat to genetics. Some of the higher tonnage varieties were 7781RR, 7811RR, 8811GT, MZ 2722BR, LF 728R, MZ 1261BR, BAXXOS and HL SR35.

I would not discount many of the other varieties that did not get into this list from our trial, but these are the numbers we got from this trial this year. Protein averaged 7.9 per cent, ADF at 30.70, NDF 55.12, TDN 66.62, DMI 2.21, DDM 65.0, RFV 112.5, and calculated 173 grazing days per acre assuming 35 pounds of dry matter intake per animal per day.

When the rubber hits the road and the cows are now grazing the plots, they are cleaning up the varieties very well and consistently across the plots. Now that we have removed or culled the high lignin masculine grain varieties out of our trials, the cows are not leaving any varieties with high stalk residue.

CORN GRAZING COSTS

Corn grazing this year is going to cost us $0.45 per cow per day, assuming 173 grazing days per acre and $200 per bag with a three acre per bag seeding rate and two passes of glyphosate at $6 per pass. Add $6 per acre for each pass of tillage and seeding and $4.50 for spraying and $6 per acre taxes, and we’re looking at a total $0.64 per cow per day. This year there was some very aggressive October programs through Maizex and Hyland along with their year-end programs so the cost per bag will be reduced to $160 to $170 per bag. If we can figure out how low we can go on the seeding rate for specific varieties, we will be able to recommend even lower costs.

If you would like to see the total yield and quality results, go to www.friendlyacres.sk.ca or give us a call at 306-744-2779 and we can mail you a copy.

Happy grazing.

KevinElmyfarmsatSaltcoats,Sask.

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