Corn silage harvest gets late start

Freedom New Mexico: Sarah Meyer Kevin Breshears of Breshears Farms checks corn for moisture Saturday morning in a field west of Portales. The corn harvest for silage has been delayed because of moisture content.

By Sarah Meyer: Freedom New Mexico

This year’s corn silage harvest is off to a late start, according to area harvesters.

Wayne Hardin of Hardin Custom Harvesting said the harvest usually starts Aug. 15, but this year it didn’t start until Aug. 25.

“Everything’s late,” he said.

Kevin Breshears said he was idle the whole first week of September — the first time that has happened in his nine years of custom harvesting.

Hardin said corn plant early suffered from hot, dry winds in June, but corn planted later benefited from August rains.

The late rains contributed to better plant health, but the corn is holding its moisture longer, said Breshears. Corn harvested for silage should be at 65-70 percent moisture, he said.

“I think the quality’s going to be a lot better,” he said.

Breshears said his crews will begin cutting Monday in a field west of Portales.

The corn is still a little on the moist side, he said, but still acceptable.

“We’ve got to get going,” Breshears said. “The frost will be chasing us out of the fields.”

Hardin said that frost ruins corn for cattle feed.

Most of the area corn harvested for silage goes to area dairies for cattle feed. Hardin said some silage also goes to a feedlot in Texas.

Hardin employs six equipment operators and will have 45 semi trucks on hand to move the silage from the field to the dairies. He said about 15 trucks are local. The rest are drivers who follow the harvests.

Breshears said he has employees from South Africa who operate his two choppers. He said it will take 16 trucks to keep up with the choppers.

Breshears said he expects to harvest 4,000-5,000 acres, producing as much as 120,000 tons of silage.

Hardin and Breshears said silage is selling for $36-40 a ton.

Silage production

• A large machine commonly called a chopper is used to cut down corn and chop it into small pieces. The machine also includes a kernel processor that cracks the corn kernels so cattle can digest them.

• The silage is placed in silos on the ground and compacted with a large tractor. Compacting is important because it helps remove the oxygen from the crop material.

• The silage is covered with plastic. It heats up and goes through a brief fermenting process, during which the heat increases by about 20 degrees and the Ph level drops from 7.5 to 4.

• Thirty to 45 days after being placed in the silo, silage is ready to feed to cattle.

Source: Kevin Breshears