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60" rows and ear corn
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Mark in NEMO
Posted 11/29/2023 08:43 (#10501893)
Subject: 60" rows and ear corn

Northeast Missouri
Could have been a Crop Talk topic, but it relates more to livestock operations, so putting it here...

"Almost" got some 60"-row corn planted this year, but fields were dry enough for early planting and my interseeder wouldn't have been ready in time, so I bailed on the idea for this year. But thinking about it for next year.

My thoughts turn to advantages and costs of harvesting 60" corn in the ear. This discussion might be most appropriate for a lot of small farmer feeders or guys who just need "some" corn for supplementing a cow herd, etc. If you need the kind of feed grain tonnage to chop earlage with a 12-row corn head, you likely won't care...

I'm comparing harvesting shelled corn at 18% (and natural air drying in the bin) vs. ear corn at say, 25% and natural air drying in a crib or similar. And assuming all of the corn will be fed, so we don't have to consider ear corn marketability. I'd be glad for anyone to shoot holes in anything I say here.

Consider 100 acres of corn yielding 150 bushels/A. 170 or so is typical for us here, but I'm looking at this on some upland fields where yield is variable due to limited moisture holding capacity. 150 is just for cost comparisons. If you normally raise 200+ bu. corn, again, you likely won't care.

Assume I can begin picking ear corn 2 - 3 weeks ahead of shelling 18% corn. That leaves 2 - 3 weeks more time to grow forage after the corn is off. With the right forage mix and adequate moisture that ought to be worth what...$20 per acre of increased forage yield, or $2,000 on 100 acres?

Lower field loss from harvesting at 25%...some people say 3% better, or 4.5 bu./acre. At $4.50/bu. would be worth about $2000 on 100 acres. (May also be some feed quality benefit if you're drying shelled corn partly with gas, but let's assume none for now.)

Yield drag of 60" corn. There's alot to be studied here yet--we don't have enough research rep's yet, so don't have good numbers for hanging your hat on--but "studies" often don't apply very well to your farm because so many variables are involved. Here, on lower-producing soils, I'll assume a 3% yield loss...a $2000 disadvantage which therefore washes out the 3% lower harvest loss described above. (But fall forage growth is one of the big reasons for 60" rows on lower-producing ground; it's a way to capture more income from a September rain that you couldn't capture during a dry July/August.)

Drying. Best numbers I can find suggest 0.75 kwh electricity use per bushel to dry corn from 18% down to 15%. At $0.14 per kwh that's about 10.5 cents per bushel, or $15.75 per acre, or say $1500 advantage for 100 acres of 150 bu. ear corn.

Labor. Ear corn requires more labor unless you are very well set up for it (and I'm assuming not, because we're talking a small acreage here, not 2,000 acres). But harvesting ear corn lets you start a lot earlier in the fall, so it spreads out labor requirements, without the potential yield drag of going to shorter-season hybrids. Let's assume the actual cost difference for labor is a wash. This may differ a lot depending you are a STO vs. BTO.

Additional feed. The value of a ground cob is not worth "nothing". If you'd have been adding other roughage to a ration we ought to include the value of the cob, but let's assume no value for the cob, because of other potential ear corn costs (maybe more handling labor, or storage losses if you don't have a very good way to store ear corn). all this boils down to $3,500 advantage for 60" ear corn on 100 acres. That won't pay for much machinery to switch to ear corn. And a lot depends on what you already have for storage facilities, etc.

But my whole point is that 60" corn ought to be a part of a "system", and ear corn maybe ought to be part of that system in the right situation.
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