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BMR Forage Sorghum in NY: Optimizing harvest for milk

Grant Program: OAR
Agricultural Sectors: Dairy, Fields Crops & Forage
Region: Statewide
Project Duration: 4/1/2015 - 3/31/2017
Amount Awarded: $100,000.00
Lead Organization: Advaned Ag Systems
Project Leader: Thomas Kilcer
Co-Leader: Quirine Ketterings
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Proposal Abstract

 OAR 13 116 &14 022, have increased winter forage acres. Planting winter forage early for high yield directly reduces length of season for corn.  There are no BMR (Brown Mid Rib has higher fiber digestibility) corn varieties available less than the critical 90 day necessary for double cropping in NY.  Single cut BMR sorghum <90 day is available with standability, and yields equal to most corn silage.  Sorghum is known to have higher protein than corn silage.  A recent study found this BMR sorghum has the same milk producing ability as corn silage.  The critical questions farmers and nutritionists are asking is, what is the optimum time to harvest sorghum for dairy?  Sorghum harvest has been based on Texas and other hot, dry climates.  NY cool harvest conditions contribute to higher sugar accumulation approaching mature seed. Preliminary research by the PI has found the potential for a very wide harvest window before seed maturity in our conditions.  Conversely, over mature black layer sorghum is highly vitreous and passes undigested. It is unknown, for New York conditions, at what stage of harvest is deal for dairy production in high forage diets. A second question is what cut length and processing is best for BMR sorghum?  Plots with replicated sampling on 5 farms clearly answer the farmers’ question “When and how should I cut my sorghum for optimum quality and yield?”   

Final Report Summary Statement

This project clearly shows that BMR sorghum can produce yields competitive with that of corn silage in much of NY.  The stage of harvest is earlier than that of Texas conditions with optimum being late milk to early soft dough stage.  This wider harvest window gives farmers more flexibility in harvest time.  The higher moisture of this crop is not a problem if the chopper is set for a minimum of ¾ inch and preferably longer.  Processing has no benefit and simply increases nutrient loss through leachate. The longer cut and no processing reduces the cost of running the chopper.  Critical analysis has found that BMR sorghum is not simply another form of corn silage.  Rations need to be significantly reformulated to capitalize on the high digestibility of the fiber, the higher protein the forage supplies, and the slightly lower starch energy it contains.

Project Impact Data

Producers Participating: 3

Producers Advising: 5

Research/Extension Employed: 4

Gross Farm Savings: $95.00

Articles/Publications: 3

Presentations: 4

Total Producers Engaged: 285

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