Top Crop Manager


Cows prefer corn

November 19, 2007  By Top Crop Manager

There is no debate about whether cows prefer corn to alfalfa hay at Kevin ElmyÕs
farm near Saltcoats, Saskatchewan. And based on recent experience, feeding cost
per cow is $1.20 per day on a poor corn growing year, compared with $1.75 to
$2 for traditional bale feeding hay. Ralph Strand near Preeceville, Saskatchewan,
was down to $0.30 per cow per day with his corn in 2003, plus he was able to
sell some hay.

Elmy figures his costs for growing corn work out to $93 to $99 per acre plus
tillage and planting costs. This includes: $40 per acre for fertilizer, applied
based on Western Ag Labs nutrient management advice, 80 pounds N per acre; plus
either Roundup Ready seed at $45 per acre and two 0.67L/ac post-emergence applications
of Roundup Transorb; or conventional seed at $25 per acre and a post-emergence
application of Accent or 2,4-D at $28 per acre. He sprayed the corn with TransOrb
at the two leaf and then the four leaf stages, and the Accent and 2,4-D at the
three leaf stage. He used three Roundup Ready corn hybrids: PS 2601, PS 2365
and Garst 8961 in one 10 acre plot and three conventional hybrids – an
experimental extra-leafy Pickseed PS 2338, Amazing Graze and Exalt – in
the second 10 acre plot. All seeding rates were aimed at 22,000 seeds per acre.

The plots were seeded with a Bourgault air-seeder fitted with 12 inch sweeps
on eight inch centres and four inch spread. Seed was planted on June 1, 2004
into sandy soil on a previous alfalfa crop which was broken in the spring with
three passes of a cultivator. "We had about 70 percent of normal corn heat
units in the season and about 13 inches of rain," says Elmy.


The field is 200 metres wide and electric fence strips about seven metres deep
across the field provide paddocks of about 1/3 acre, or about three days grazing
for 28 head. "We borrowed these from our neighbours, Wayne and Carol Gibson,
who raise purebred Black Angus bulls under the Lonesome Acres Angus name."
Early in the grazing season, Elmy reckoned on achieving about 140 grazing days
per acre. "An alfalfa bale was put out on the first grazing day but they
didn't eat any of it until the eighth day and were not interested in the hay
until most of the corn was eaten in the first paddock," says Elmy.

Elmy also expects to gain from the nutrient cycling through the cows and back
to the land. "This will reduce the amount of fertilizer I'll require next
year," he adds. Because we are not taking any of the production off the
field, most of the nutrients should be returned to the soil in the urine and
manure. In looking at a couple of Western Ag Lab reports from last year's corn
grazing areas, nutrient levels required for producing corn for next year are
way down making corn even more attractive and inexpensive. -30-



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