Corn Silage Outperforms Alfalfa in Dairy Rations – For Now

September 30, 2010 04:14 PM

Corn silage is outperforming alfalfa in dairy rations in a number of comparisons, Dr Mike Hutjens, Extension dairy specialist with the University of Illinois Extension, said Thursday at World Dairy Expo.

Corn silage surpasses alfalfa in six of 10 comparisons, including:

  • dry matter per acre
  • harvesting a consistent forage
  • carbohydrate aspects
  • harvesting factors
  • ration costs
  • fermentation profiles

Speaking at a Dairy Forage Tool Box seminar, Hutjens said alfalfa outshines corn silage:

  • As a physically effective fiber
  • In its buffering capacity
  • In its proteins aspects
  • In density of silage

“To be more competitive with corn, alfalfa breeders must put more emphasis on nutrient plans,” said Hutjens.  “They must stack herbicide traits to reduce weed and grass pressure. They must also stack pesticide traits to reduce spraying and delayed harvest and improve quality.”

Alfalfa breeders must also shift the crop’s protein profile, he said. Alfalfa needs more fermentable rumen carbohydrates.  More work is needed for alfalfa to reach its yield potential and to reduce the number of harvesting trips.

“We’re working on all those,” said Dr. Neil Martin, a forage expert with the US Dairy Forage Research Center. “By 2014 or 2015, we’ll see a different kind of alfalfa.”



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Spell Check

10/2/2010 11:26 AM

  Dr. Hutjens is spot on in his analysis. Cows make milk from carbohydrates. We can reduce crude protein to 16% and cows still milk well. If you short the cow on digestible carbohydrates milk will suffer. We need alfalfa that has more digestible NDF and more total digestible carbohydrates. Cows milk when they can lay down 12 hours per day and consume a diet that has plenty of digestible effective fiber and a mix of carbohydrates including starch and sugar.


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