John Mendonca pre-irrigates his land in April for planting BMR corn silage in May. His dairy sits in the background, near Tulare, Calif.
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The rewards are feed-cost savings and higher milk production
John Mendonca is marking a milestone this month on his dairy farm near Tulare, Calif.
For the first time, Mendonca will be planting 100% of his corn silage acreage to brown midrib (BMR) varieties.
Inspired by the results that he has seen from limited BMR plantings on his farm for the past three years, Mendonca has high hopes for his dairy’s bottom line. He anticipates that there will be significant feed-cost savings and higher production out of his 600 milking cows—all benefits of feeding BMR corn silage.
"I don’t see any reason to plant anything but BMR because I want to plant what’s going to make us the most milk," Mendonca says.
BMR corn is not a genetically modified organism (GMO) but the result of a naturally occurring gene mutation. It features less lignin in the cornstalk, which results in higher fiber digestibility. That, in turn, leads to greater dry matter intake and more milk.
"When I started feeding BMR corn three years ago, I saw 3 lb. to 4 lb. or more in increased milk production per cow per day," Mendonca says "When I ran out of BMR corn, I definitely noticed the reduction in production."
Last year, Mendonca increased his BMR planting to 75% of his corn silage acreage. With the greater feed supply of the corn hybrid, he saw his herd’s milk production rise even higher. "I was seeing increases of 5 lb. to 6 lb. per cow, and that was after cutting back 4 lb. on grain in my rations," Mendonca says.
That reduction saved his operation almost $15,000 per month in grain costs. "The BMR corn was much more affordable than the rolled corn we replaced in the ration," he says.
Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF) digestibility rates for BMR corn silage with the bm3 gene are generally 10% to 14% higher than conventional corn silage, says Chris Dschaak, forage nutrition specialist with Mycogen Seeds. The greater corn silage intake from BMR varieties means producers can reduce grain in their ration formulation. Most dairy producers can feed 2 lb. to 4 lb. less grain per cow per day when feeding BMR corn silage.
Those BMR feed-cost savings can reach $100,000 to nearly $600,000, depending on the size of the dairy, Dschaak says. For example, a dairy feeding 500 cows, based on a 3-lb. ration reduction of rolled corn at the current price of $350 per ton, would save $96,725 a year or 53¢ per cow per day by feeding BMR corn silage instead of conventional corn silage. The savings for a 2,000-cow dairy could potentially reach $386,900.
- May 2013