Cattle farm tries new silage technique

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If you don’t have high quality food, you are improvising. You don’t want to send your precious semen cattle on the road.

This is where Jerry Delaney, 60, and his wife, Michelle “Shelly”, and their son, Nicholas, 25, were and they responded by setting up “silage bales”. Their operation Delaney Herefords Inc., established as a purebred Hereford operation in 1936, calved 220 cows last year. They could be down to 175 for 2020, Jerry says.

The farm consists of 1,200 acres. This year they have 400 acres of grain corn, 400 acres of no seed (all corn), 300 acres of soybeans, and 60 acres of alfalfa. By the time the silage choppers arrived at the Delaneys this year, the corn was too dry to make good silage.

“There isn’t a good quality food set up this year,” Jerry said, adding, “If it’s a cold winter like last year, they’ll go through a lot of food.”

The Delaney’s applied for insurance against tree planting on approximately 400 acres. They got about $ 60 an acre.

In mid-June, they realized they needed to plant cover crops to protect the soil to prevent an area of ​​weeds from starting. Initially, federal policies prohibited all harvesting on impeded plantation land until November 1.

On June 20, the United States Department of Agriculture authorized haymaking and grazing of these acres after September 1. So instead of planting cheap seed, purely for soil quality, the Delaney’s strove to get more value from the plantation than what the USDA risk management agency had paid for.

On any impeded plantation land that had a good fence and a water source, they paid $ 25 per acre to produce a “Premium Graze” blend (Sudan grass, turnips, radishes and millet) purchased from Millborn Seed. of Brookings, SD. brush against it after September 1.

On all the acres of plantation impeded without fencing or water, they planted straight sudang grass for haymaking.

Looking back, Jerry says they may have planted the cover crop too quickly. The crop got tall and overripe, and then it froze.

They had 6 inches of rain from October 10 to 12, the ground did not dry out. Frost can cause nitrite to build up in forage and can be poisonous if fed within a week.

Delaney Herefords features (left to right) Nick Delaney and his parents, Shelly and Jerry.  Photo taken November 5, 2019 in Lake Benton, Minnesota.  They produce purebred and commercial cattle, as well as grain, and feed on 1,200 acres.  (Mikkel Pates / Forum News Service)

Delaney Herefords features (left to right) Nick Delaney and his parents, Shelly and Jerry. Photo taken November 5, 2019 in Lake Benton, Minnesota. They produce purebred and commercial cattle, as well as grain, and feed on 1,200 acres. (Mikkel Pates / Forum News Service)

On October 31, they finished harvesting soybeans. They combined 80 acres of their 400 acres of corn before a 4-inch snowfall stopped them on November 5. The combine sits in a field under one of the area’s ubiquitous wind turbines, waiting for winter to roll in.

“You either have to combine when the corn is very cold or when the snow is no longer on the stems,” says Jerry.

During this time, dry haymaking of cover crops was not working.

Instead, they tried a new thing for this area: silage bales. They put very wet balls in plastic tubes.

The Delaney’s have hired Brooks Van Dyke, a neighbor of Elkton, SD, who owns a silage bale wrapping machine. Van Dyke cut the cover crop in early October and the packaging arrived the next day. Van Dyke charged $ 7 to make each bale plus $ 13 per bale to wrap it, for a total of $ 20 per bale.

Ultimately, the process resulted in “three beautiful white rows” at least 200 feet long, visible from the north side of US Highway 14, just east of the South Dakota-Minnesota line.

“It’s pretty neat how they got that – to wrap a ball out of the ground,” Jerry says. “You have to get around the ball without anything touching it. Some dairy farmers have baled silage in the past three years. Others did it for a first cut of hay in early summer, when it was too wet.

The 2,200 pound silage bale contains about 1,300 pounds of dry matter, or about 37% water. “A regular bullet wouldn’t contain water,” Jerry said. We could just feed the whole ball. This, here, we are going to have a shrink.

Will it be worth it?
“We’re going to find out,” Jerry said, while Nick nodded. They worry about what happens if the bullets freeze. As with other types of silage, fermentation removes toxicity after 30 days. As with other silages, the outside of the bale will start to spoil if it is not used after a few days.

The Delaney’s hope to get two more years of forage from the cover crop. They don’t know how long the plastic wrap will last. Jerry calculates that corn silage is worth about a third of the price of alfalfa hay. His nutritionist will probe them and analyze the balls to determine how to use them in a food ration.

Nick simply smiles when asked about the challenges of the harvest. Despite the uncertainties, he seems eager to see the result of a hands-on “experiment” in production.

“If we don’t throw the worst at you, you don’t know what you’re made of,” he said with a smile. And he adds, “If you want to do it (shut down) under these conditions, then you really want to do it. There seems to be no doubt that he does.


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