The impact of corn silage harvesting and feeding decisions on income over feed costs

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2015: $48,873.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Virginia Ishler
Penn State University

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn
  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, feed management
  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, cropping systems
  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, business planning, risk management, whole farm planning
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems

    Proposal abstract:

    The Penn State Extension dairy team worked with 143 dairies the past five years to develop cash flow plans, income over feed costs and cost of production. From this group, 50 farms were selected to evaluate corn silage quality and its impact on farm profitability. Forty-four farms completed their actual cash flow plan for 2013 and sampled their corn silage in the fall of 2013 and spring of 2014. Producers responded to questions related to corn hybrids planted and feeding management practices. Farms utilized between 5 to 13 different hybrids and the
    process for selection ranged from the cheapest seed to crop yields. Quality parameters such as neutral detergent fiber and starch digestibility did not factor into the decision process. Farms incorporating best feeding and cropping management practices showed a 5.8 pound milk increase versus their counterparts. Preliminary results show corn silage quality affects farm profitability. Forage quality and quantity are the foundation for developing
    successful and profitable rations. Producers benefit from advisors that understand cropping, feeding and economics to help them make smarter decisions.

    Crop and dairy advisors work with producers providing assistance in their representative fields. Decisions made in one area can have a significant affect in another. Dairying is a system and should not be compartmentalized. Extension educators are positioned to achieve a whole farm system approach by capturing the agronomics, nutritional and financial components. The end beneficiary is the dairy producer who receives better recommendations from their consultants. This project will engage extension educators working in the area of crop and dairy production. A survey will be conducted to evaluate educators in the northeast determining their knowledge related to corn hybrids and the utilization of cover crops, practices affecting silage quality and quantity, interpreting a forage analysis report, and how to evaluate income over feed costs. Based on survey results a curriculum will be developed. In year 1, educators will participate in a face to face workshop conducted at two locations in the northeast. Follow-up webinars will be offered to explore challenges educators are experiencing. In year 2, twelve crop and twelve dairy educators will work in pairs to implement what they have learned on at least 2 farms for a minimum of 1 year. In year 3, participating producers will be surveyed; results summarized, and educational programs conducted for consultants and producers at field days, winter meetings and annual conferences.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Consulting in pairs, 24 crop and dairy educators and industry partners will work with 24 producers to improve corn silage management and feed management of forages. 6 educators will present results in workshop settings reaching 300 consultants and 200 producers. 100 producers managing 10,000 corn silage acres will implement at least one recommended corn silage or forage feed management decision tool.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.