Soybeans can make a good forage ration component if harvested and stored appropriately, says Mike Hutjens, a dairy specialist with the University of Illinois Extension.
Soybean silage can contain 18% to 20% crude protein, 30% to 32% acid detergent fiber and 40% to 43% neutral detergent fiber, says Hutjens.
He and Jim Baltz, also with the University of Illinois, have put together a seven-minute video explaining when and how to best harvest soybeans for forage. Highlights:
• Before harvesting, check the labels of any herbicides or insecticides applied to the crop to ensure there are no residue concerns. Also check with your crop insurance carrier to ensure harvesting for forage is allowed by your policy.
• Harvest at the R3 stage, which is the beginning of pod set and approximately 10 days after flowering. Typically, this stage yields the most forage dry matter—one to two tons per acre.
• Set your chopper at 3/8” theoretical cut, and apply a research-based inoculant like the products you would apply to alfalfa and other legumes.
• Hutjens estimates a two-ton forage yield is worth about $300 in forage feed value. If soybeans are at $15/bu, then anything more than a 20 bu/a estimated yield would likely make the crop more valuable as soybean seed.
View the entire video here.