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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Economics of Corn Silage Processing on North American Dairy Farms

Authors
item Rotz, Clarence
item Johnson, Lynn - WASHINGTON STATE UNIV.
item Harrison, Joseph - WASHINGTON STATE UNIV.

Submitted to: Applied Engineering in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: July 6, 1999
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Economic and environmental constraints are causing dairy producers to continue their search for ways of improving production efficiency. Inflation adjusted milk prices have been relatively stable or declining while production costs continue to increase. Now new policies and legislation are forcing producers to improve manure nutrient use and reduce enutrient losses to the environment. Production efficiency must improve to enable a sustainable dairy industry for the future. One method that promises some improvement in overall farm efficiency is the processing of corn silage. This processing is done by passing the crop through a device that cracks or crushes the corn kernels with some shredding or crushing of the stalk material. Processing can improve the nutritive value of the silage, and thus improve the animals efficiency in converting feed to milk and meat products. To properly evaluate the role of this new process in dairy production, the costs and benefits of the process must be weighed in a whole farm analysis. A simulation model of the dairy farm was used to integrate the effects of processing on machine performance, fuel and labor requirements, ensiling of the crop, animal performance, environmental impacts, and farm profit. The processing technology was found to improve the efficiency and profit of dairy farms. Promotion of these benefits will encourage dairy farmers to adopt this new technology, and this will help strengthen the viability of the dairy industry for the future.

Technical Abstract: Whole farm impacts of using a corn silage processor on the forage harvester were assessed using long term simulations with DAFOSYM (The Dairy Forage System Model). Use of processing improved packing in the silo and increased the digestibility of the silage, which reduced supplemental feed requirements, and/or improved milk production. When processing was used on nfarms having 100 or 400 high producing Holstein cows with 40% of the forag requirement met by corn silage, the treatment provided about a 2% increase in milk production along with a decrease in supplemental grain feeding. Increases in production and feeding costs were more than offset by the increase in milk sales, providing about a $50/cow improvement in the annual net return or profit of the farm. Without an increase in milk production, the economic benefit dropped to $7/cow. If the amount of corn silage fed was increased to 75% of the total forage requirement, the economic benefit of the treatment increased to $122/cow. The economic benefit of processin was moderately sensitive to milk price and processing's affect on forage digestibility and available energy. Reasonable changes in these assumptions varied farm net return by less than $25/cow/yr. The results were relatively insensitive to reasonable assumptions for machine parameters, packing density in the silo, and supplemental feed prices.

Last Modified: 8/1/2014
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