Paul E. Nyren, Director, Central Grasslands Research Extension Center
Annual forages play an important role in the winter diets of many livestock in North Dakota. One of the most commonly grown annual forages is silage corn. Genetic advances in hybrid seed corn have produced early maturing varieties that give better yields in the northern states. Other annual forages that are grown in North Dakota include sorghums, small grains, and field peas. Each of these have their advantages and disadvantages.
While corn's high yields and good feed value make it the annual forage of choice in many parts of the U.S., many stockmen in North Dakota hesitate to grow it because of the need for specialized equipment.
In 1998 the CGREC kept records on two fields, one 50-acre field planted to silage corn and another 50-acre field seeded to the newly released oat variety "Paul". Paul oats is a hulless variety that has shown good results in feeding trials both at the CGREC and Main Experiment Station in Fargo. The Paul oats were swathed and baled with a standard round baler. In addition to the high feed value Paul hulless oats produces a heavy straw that makes it a valuable forage oat as well. Table 1 shows the costs associated with the production of each crop. In addition to paying about twice as much for corn seed, other operations were also more expensive for the silage crop. Corn requires more nitrogen fertilizer than does oats increasing the cost $3.30 per acre. Other increases in cost of production came from herbicide, added tillage, and harvesting. This table does not take into consideration any added machinery purchases, but rather uses custom rates for all field work. The total costs for the two crops was $89.56 and $139.60 for the forage oats and silage corn, respectively.
The yields of the two crops when compared on an 80% dry matter basis show the forage oats yielding more than the silage corn. The forage oats yielded 2.9 tons per acre while the silage corn yielded 2.2 tons per acre. These yields would vary from year to year depending on the weather. In 1999 on a similar field of silage corn the yields nearly doubled. While the need for specialized row crop equipment remains, newly released herbicides have lowered the cost of weed control.
The value of each crop also needs to be taken into account when making crop plans. See Comparison of Naked Oat Hay to Corn Silage in Backgrounding Diets of Heifers for more information from NDSU on a feeding trial comparing Paul oat hay and corn silage.
Table 1. Production costs for hulless oats and corn silage in 1998.
|Hulless Oats||Corn Silage|
|Row Crop Cultivation||$0.00||$4.40|
|Piling & Picking/Stacking||$11.93||$11.05|
Paul E. Nyren, Director
Central Grasslands Research Extension Center
4824 48th Ave SE
Streeter, ND 58483