Alternative Forage Production and Costs in Eastern Iowa, 2009

Name and Title: 
Denise Schwab, Beef Field Specialist

Fiscal Year Submitted:
2010

POW Number & Title:  
140 Iowa Beef Center

Title:  Alternative Forage Production and Costs in Eastern Iowa, 2009

Issue:
With the recent run-up in corn prices, some of Iowa’s cattlemen are concerned about how to combine cash grain crops, forage production for cattle, and overall farm profitability.  One potential option is to double crop grain and annual forages.  Traditionally, annual forage production in Iowa has been viewed as being too expensive.  But can annual forages fit into a row-crop program allowing producers to raise both a cash grain crop and forage for the cow herd on the same acres?  This demonstration shows that the potential for double cropping annual forages and cash grain crops exists, but the weather risks may be the determining factor in profitability.

What Did You Do?:
The first step in this project was a 30 acre demonstration plot planted to field peas and triticale, followed by 10 acres of pearl millet, 10 acres of corn and 10 acres of soybeans.  The field was worked with a soil finisher and the field peas and triticale were planted with a conventional drill on April 4, 2009, at a rate of 50 pounds of peas and 50 pounds of triticale per acre at a seed cost of $35/acre.  Beef manure had been applied prior to tillage and no additional fertilizer was applied.  It was estimated that the forage should be ready to chop about late May, but due to the cool, wet spring, it was not mowed until June 16.  A field day was held on June 17, despite damp conditions, and the forage was chopped off the field late that night as more rain was predicted for the next day.  The chopping and bagging cost $8/ton or $48/ac.  The land was charged at $200/acre with the peas/triticale charged for half ($100) and the summer crop charged the other half.

On June 27, the 10 acres of corn and 10 acres of soybeans were no-till planted.  That same day the final 10 acres were soil finished and the pearl millet was drilled.  The corn was a 102 day maturity roundup ready corn, and the beans were a 2.7 maturity roundup ready soybean.  Both were sprayed with Roundup once, and the corn received an additional 100 units of nitrogen at a cost of $0.58/unit of N.

In addition to the demonstration plot, two field days were held to demonstrate to other producers how annual forages can be used to increase grazing days.  The first was held on June 17, when most of the field was mowed and waiting for the chopper.  Two swaths were left standing to show producers what the standing cropped looked like.   The second field day was held August 24, after one rotation through the millet.  Millet growth was disappointing, and some of the pea-triticale silage was being fed to supplement the cows through late summer.  At that time we also featured the interseeded pasture.  Part of the interseeding did not establish as well as hoped, but the north part of the pasture had a tremendous stand of red clover from the interseeding.  Eleven producers attended the June field day and 19 attended the August field day

Result/Outcome:
Despite the cool, wet spring, the pea/triticale field yielded 6 tons per acre, but was wetter than desired to be stored in a forage bag.  The combination of mowing and chopping in wet field conditions resulted in some compaction and rutting in the field.  Ideally the peas and triticale should have been mowed about a week earlier and allowed to dry longer before being chopped.  The silage was not analyzed, however did show signs of being bagged too wet. 

Expenses for the 30 acres of peas and triticale were as follows.


2009 Pea-Triticale Silage Expenses

 

Expenses per acre

Expenses for 30 ac

per ton

based on 6 ton acre

based on 6 ton acre

Soil finisher

$11.20

$336.00

$1.87

Drill

$13.10

$393.00

$2.18

seed-2bags @17.50

$35.00

$1,050.00

$5.83

Mowing

$10.20

$306.00

$1.70

Raking

$5.70

$171.00

$0.95

chopping/bagging

$48.00

$1,440.00

$8.00

land

$100.00

$3,000.00

$16.67

 

 

 Total Expense

$223.20

$6,696.00

$37.20

 

The costs for the corn, soybeans and millet were as follows.


Soybeans

Expenses per acre

Expenses for 10 acres

 

 

 

No-till plant

$15.80

$158.00

 

seed

$32.00

$320.00

 

1 application Roundup

$16.00

$160.00

 

combine

$35.30

$353.00

 

land

$100.00

$1,000.00

 

 

 

Total

$199.10

$1,991.00

 

Corn

Expenses per acre

Expenses for 10 acres

 

 

 

No-till plant

$15.80

$158.00

 

seed

$96.00

$960.00

 

100# nitrogen

$58.00

$580.00

 

1 application Roundup

$16.00

$160.00

 

Chopping ($4.50/ton)

$67.50

$675.00

 

land

$100.00

$1,000.00

 

 

 

 

 

Total

$353.30

$3,533.00

 

Pearl millet

Expenses per acre

Expenses for 10 acres

 

 

 

 

 

Soil finisher

$11.20

$112.00

 

Drill

$13.10

$131.00

 

seed

$40.00

$400.00

 

 

 

 

 

Total

$64.30

$643.00

 

 
One of the concerns was the worry of silk clipping on the late pollinating corn.  Due to the cool, wet summer, silk clipping was not a problem but should be a consideration in a normal year.  The cool wet weather had a significant impact on both the corn and pearl millet, and a modest affect on soybean yields.  The soybeans yielded 47 bushels per acre compared to the same beans on a neighboring field planted in late April and yielding 58 bushels per acre.  This was a 19% reduction in soybean yields.

The original plan was to combine the corn for grain, with the assumption that the 102 day corn would have had time to mature and should have yielded about 150 bushels per acre, but if necessary could have been chopped for silage and winter feed.  Due to the cool weather the corn did not mature and was killed by frost at about ½ milk line and later chopped for silage.  Corn silage yields vary, but most estimate approximately 16-20 tons per acre with a potential for up to 25 tons per acre. This corn yielded 15 tons per acre, slightly lower than expected.    An estimated feed value of stored silage of 9 times the price of a bushel of corn1 would be ($3.60/bu2 x 9) $32.40 per ton.  The actual calculated cost of this corn silage was $23.55/ton in the Ag Bag, significantly less than the suggested pricing based on corn grain prices, making it a reasonable feed alternative.

Since pearl millet is a warm season grass, it was also impacted by the cool weather and was slower to emerge resulting in more weed pressure.  It was also slower growing due to the cool temperatures and did not meet the yield expectations of 3-5 tons of dry matter per acre.  It produced about 2.07 tons of dry matter forage per acre that was grazed by 40 cow/calf pairs and one bull over 28 days.  Using the Iowa Cash Rent Survey for pasture rent per AUM with an average of about $16/AUM, 41 AUM’s would equate to a rent of about $656 for the one month of grazing.

The final financial results of the project are:

Summary of System

Total

Pea/triticale silage expense

$6,696.00

Soybean expense

$1,991.00

Corn Expense

$3,533.00

Millet Expense

$643.00

 

Total Expenses

$12,863.00

 

Income

Soybean Income

47 bu @ $9.70/bu sold at harvest

$4,559.00

 

Feed Value

180 ton pea silage at

$37.20/ton cost of production

$6,696.00

150 ton corn silage at

$23.55/ ton cost of production

$3,533.00

grazing days

28 days for 40 pairs plus 1 bull

 

41 AUM@ $16/AUM

$656

 

 

Total Income + Feed value

$15,444.00

 

 

Total Net Profit

$2,581.00

 

Net per acre

$86.03

 

If yields had met average expectations, and 320 tons of stored forage is produced for the cow herd to be comparable to 2009, the per acre income for the 30 acres would increase from $86/ac to almost $128/ac making this system economically feasible.

 

If the objective of the producer is to raise a similar amount of feed from the same 30 acres of land, how would a conventional cropping program compare?  With a conventional corn and soybean system, approximately 19 acres would need to be corn silage at 18 tons per acre to produce about the same amount of winter feed, leaving only 11 acres for a cash grain crop of soybeans.  Using the same per acre expenses the net per acre would be $122/ac. – better than the actual 2009 results, but lower than the potential with expect yields and without the 2 months of summer grazing. 

If the value of two months summer grazing as pasture rent ($1312) is included, the net per acre drops to $84, making the 2009 actual results more profitable.

 

Summary

Incorporating forage production with crop production using annual forages with grain crops can be profitable, however it carries additional risk beyond conventional crop production.  The two biggest risks appear to be weather conditions for germination and growing degree days for maturing the crops, and inability to insure the grain crops due to Iowa’s rules on double cropping.

Profit per acre for 30 acre system producing 320 ton of silage plus 82 AUM of grazing

Pea/triticale, corn, beans & millet at 2009 yields

$86.03

Pea/triticale, corn, beans & millet at expected yields

$127.97

Conventional corn & soybeans with additional pasture rent

$84.23

 

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the ISU College of Ag and Life Sciences for the demonstration grant that funded this project,  Matt Brenneman for cooperating on the demonstration, and the Iowa Forage and Grassland Council for providing additional resources for the field days.

1. Ag Decision Maker,  File A1-65, Pricing Forage in the Field
http://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/crops/html/a1-65.html

2 Ag Decision Maker, AF-11, March 2010, Cash Corn and Soybean Prices
http://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/crops/pdf/a2-11.pdf

 

2010

140 Iowa Beef Center

 

Page last updated: June 30, 2010
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu