Brown midrib (BMR) corn silage - growing in popularity thanks to its enhanced digestibility - got another boost when it captured the top two places in the 1999 World's Forage Analysis Superbowl.

Jodie Bobolz, Waterloo, WI, was named the World Champion Forage Producer at last October's World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI, after submitting an entry of BMR corn silage in the dairy division's silage class. Her winning BMRentry boasted a final score of 95.72.

The only other entry scoring over 90 points - also a BMR corn silage sample - was submitted by John Winkelman, Watertown, WI. It came in a close second at 95.20. Both entries were Cargill BMR 657.

Bobolz, along with her parents, Jim and Karen Battist, and brother Philip, milk 110 registered Holsteins and crop about 650 acres of corn, alfalfa, soybeans, wheat and oats. Bobolz returned to the family farm after college and nearly a three-year stint as an elementary school teacher. Her husband, Randy, works off the farm.

"I love the farm and the dairy cows, and this is where I want to be," she says. "I can always go back to teaching if the need ever arises."

To support the three households, the family relies on high-quality forages to maximize milk output.

"Our goal is to get the cows to give as much milk as possible," says Bobolz, adding that the family will build a new milking parlor and double their herd size this year.

They started growing BMR corn silage in 1998 after reading research that showed it has about half as much lignin as conventional corn silage and is several percentage points higher in digestibility. The silage is added to a total-mixed ration that also includes haylage, baled hay, grain, roasted soybeans and a small amount of straw for additional fiber.

After adding BMR corn silage to the ration and harvesting some exceptionally high-quality haylage, the family has seen its rolling herd average climb from 25,000 lbs of milk to 25,500.

"I think the increased production is somewhat attributable to the BMR corn, but that's tough to document," says Jim Battist.

They no-till their silage corn in 38' rows using a four-row planter retrofitted with 12 zone-till coulters.

"We put three coulters ahead of each row instead just one," explains Battist. "The three coulters give us an 8-10' strip that's tilled. Our soils are very heavy and cold, and tilling that strip gives the soil a chance to warm up."

Because the low-lignin stalks may be more prone to lodging, Battist says the crop should be harvested as soon as it reaches the proper maturity stage.

"When it's ready, you better get it harvested before it falls over. I don't want to be negative on the fact that it falls over, because corn that won't fall over has so much fiber in it that it can't. I don't want my corn for silage to fall over, but I don't want too much fiber in it, either."

The other class winners in the 1999 World's Forage Analysis Superbowl, which attracted nearly 300 entries, are:

Dairy hay: Karl and Barb Wogsland, Scandinavia, WI.

Dairy haylage: Ken Nolden, Rocking Springs, WI.

Dairy corn silage: John Winkelman.

Commercial hay: Brian Hupalo, Dauphin, Manitoba.

Commercial baleage: Joshua Kamps, Darlington, WI.

Champion first-time entrant, William Olszewski, Johnson Creek, WI.

The annual contest is sponsored by AgSource Cooperative Services/CRI, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, World Dairy Expo, DairyBusiness Communications and Hay & Forage Grower.