FOLEY, Minn. — Agreeing on a price for corn silage can be difficult. To get a fair price requires knowledge of both the expenses (such as the cost of fertilizer, field operations) and markets (grains, straw, milk and silage). This can make obtaining a fair price hard to come by if you are not aware of the resources around you.
There are a few rules of thumb which are usually used in the pricing process. One of the more common methods is that it might be worth 6 to 8 times the price of corn grain. This is based on an estimate of 6 to 8 bushels per ton of silage. However, this may not be the best option as data from the University of Wisconsin showed anywhere between a 3.6 to 7.5 bushels of grain per ton of silage at 65 percent moisture.
Moisture does make a difference when estimating yields. In field trials when corn was harvested at 65 percent moisture and yielded 125 bushels per acre, it resulted in 16.7 tons of silage (which is 7.5 bushels of corn per ton of silage). In those same field trials, when corn was harvested at 70 percent moisture, yield was 19.5 tons of silage which is only 6.4 bushels of corn per acre.
Environment may also play a role in the amount of grain in a silage sample. Testing samples for moisture and feed quality is one way to help decide what the silage is worth and can help eliminate some of the questions around quality.
Also remember that storage and labor costs are tied up in the price of grain. If you are not the one doing the work, make sure to properly adjust the price based on the harvest costs which would have occurred in harvesting the grain.
There are different ways to price corn silage other than using the above estimation. Many of these options are easily found online and free to use. Penn State, Iowa State, Kansas State and Wisconsin all have their own versions of corn silage pricing calculators and can all be found using a simple internet search. Each one takes a slightly different approach to pricing corn silage, so make sure to experiment with them to decide which one best fits your needs and situation. Remember that the person buying the crop is also thinking about yield, quality and price vs. other options.
I will always recommend looking at past production costs to help determine price. Determining a price which accounts for nutrient applications and removal, pest management, seed costs, and all equipment and labor costs is the surest way to determine a fair price for both your silage and hay sources. This can be relatively easy if you keep records of expenses throughout the year.
While nitrogen applications have to be made every year due to its mobility in the soil, phosphorus and potassium are less mobile and therefore need to be accounted for through removal rates. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has found those removal rates at 3.6 pounds of phosphorus per ton and 8.3 pounds of potassium per ton of silage.
Remember yield and quality are also important when determining a fair price for corn silage or dry hay. As always, the price which suits the needs of both parties (as best as it can) is the end goal.
This article was submitted by Nathan Drewitz, University of Minnesota Extension.