Evaluation of Brown-Midrib Sudangrass-Sorghum as a Forage on NH Dairy Farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2004: $4,064.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: Northeast
State: New Hampshire
Project Leader:
Carl Majewski
UNH Cooperative Extension


  • Agronomic: corn, sorghum (milo)
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, feed rations
  • Crop Production: application rate management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal abstract:

    Silage corn is a popular crop among New Hampshire dairy producers since it has the potential to produce high yields of digestible dry matter. However, production practices are typically input-intensive, and many NH dairy farms are not located in areas well-suited for growing the crop. The decreased profitability and threats to soil and water resources prevent these farms from becoming more sustainable. In order to reverse this situation, producers need to grow forage crops that continue to provide adequate amounts of quality feed without adversely affecting environmental quality. One crop that shows potential for this is brown-midrib sudangrass- sorghum hybrid (BMR-SS). A demonstration plot grown in 2003 indicates that the crop has the potential for yields that approach those of average silage corn, with a feed quality profile similar to that of cool-season grasses. This project entails establishing BMR-SS plots at four cooperating farms in southwestern New Hampshire that range widely in farm size and dominant soil types, and that also currently grow corn for silage. We will compare BMR-SS with silage corn, measuring dry matter yields, feed quality, cost of production, and calculating feeding costs to maintain production. Outreach will involve a field day at one of the cooperating farms, presentations made at field crop producer meetings, and a fact sheet summarizing the results from the project.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We propose planting BMR-SS plots at four farms in southwestern New Hampshire that currently also grow silage corn. The cooperating dairy farms range in size from 43 to 500 milking cows, and from 180 to 1900 acres of cropland. The dominant soils on each farm vary from moderately well-drained upland soils to well-drained and highly productive soils in the Connecticut River Valley. Each farm will plant between three and five acres of BMR-SS and manage the crop according to current recommendations established by Thomas Kilcer from Cornell Cooperative Extension for optimal dry matter yield and forage quality: we will sow the crop at 65-70 pounds of seed per acre once the soil temperature reaches 60oF. We will harvest the crop at a height of 36-48 inches, supplying each cutting with 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre (applied as manure at planting and as urea after first and second cuttings). We will ensile harvested forage in bunker silos or in wrapped round bales, depending on the system used on each cooperating farm.

    At each farm we will determine the cost of producing both BMR-SS and silage corn by recording seed, labor, fertilizer, and herbicide inputs for both crops. We will measure dry matter yields for both BMR-SS and silage corn using a set of portable scales (MD400 Portable Weighing System, General Electrodynamics Corp.) and a Koster moisture tester. Three weeks after ensiling, we will submit feed samples to DairyOne Forage Laboratory for forage analysis for both BMR-SS and corn silage on each farm in order to determine feed value.

    We will use forage analysis data and the National Research Council’s computer model for balancing feed rations to compare income over feed costs for supporting each farm’s current level of milk production using rations based on either corn silage or BMR-SS. This will enable us to compare BMR-SS with silage corn in yield, cost of production, feed value, and ability to fit into cropping systems on New Hampshire dairy farms.

    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.