It wasn't so much what Bob Brooks did as what he didn't do to win the 2002 World's Forage Analysis Superbowl.
“I didn't use commercial fertilizer, I didn't use inoculants and I didn't use a processor,” says Brooks, Alexandria, OH. His entry was the first corn silage to take the overall grand championship in the annual forage quality contest.
Brooks, who milks 130 cows, raises nearly 90 acres of silage corn and another 100 of alfalfa and grass, is a real “research and data kind of guy.” He loves to work the numbers, check out university studies and compare corn hybrids.
In 2001, he planted a brown midrib silage corn. But he also planted the contest-winning Mycogen TMF 94, in part to get some early silage and in part because it could also be shelled.
Brooks' corn crop came in big. So big he decided to chop higher than usual — about 10" — to get higher-quality forage.
“I thought, ‘I'm going to have tonnage coming out of my ears; why do I need to chop the lower stalk?’”
Brooks didn't even consider inoculants. “I use them on haylage, but there is so much energy in the corn silage. It drives the fermentation reaction just fine with or without inoculant.”
He chopped his contest entry at a 9/16" theoretical cut. “At 9/16" cut you've got good-looking silage. It's consistent and the cobs are broken up. You can win a silage contest,” quips Brooks, whose seed rep entered the 2001 sample in this year's contest.
This fall, Brooks lengthened the theoretical cut to ¾" to add fiber. “The negative is you get some cob-ringers coming through and I don't like that. It reduces the effective fiber and I'm trying to increase it. That's the beauty of a processor; you can chop longer and have the fiber length.”
Getting his cows enough fiber is one of Brooks' challenges. Even his contest entry had borderline problems: His Penn State shaker box revealed that his TMR didn't have enough medium-length fibers.
“We got 50% or more small particles and we want less than 50%.”
Going to ¾" increased his ration fiber, but cows aren't eating some cob pieces and the fiber in them. “So I can see why a processor would be a big asset,” Brooks sighs.
His silage is harvested at 30-33% dry matter. “Without a processor, moisture is more critical because you want to chop when it's plenty wet and can break a cob up if you choose a longer chop length.
“You can't let the corn get too dry or the kernels get too hard and pass through the cow whole. You won't get the energy out of it,” he adds.
Besides corn silage, his TMR includes haylage; 2.5 lbs of dry, mixed hay; a custom-blended grain mix and wet brewers' grain. His rolling herd average is at 28,000 lbs.
After years of making do with tower silos, Brooks turned recently to bagging, which offers consistent quality and fast feeding. “We're 100% into bags. We're real happy with them,” he says.
His winning entry, Mycogen TMF 94, tested 31.5% NDF, 59.3% NDF digestibility and 18.4% ADF.
Here are other top winners:
Curtin Dairy, Cassville, NY, took grand championship honors in the corn silage class. Hardi Farms, Lansing, NY, took second and Milk Train Inc., Sprakers, NY, placed third.
Karl and Barb Wogsland, Scandinavia, WI, won top honors in dairy haylage. Second place went to Jeanquart Farms, Casco, WI, and Rick Schwenck, Malone, WI, won third.
The top dairy hay sample was entered by Loren Bruehlman, Argyle, WI. Second and third place finishers were Tom and Kay Luxton, Hill Point, WI, and McClellen Farms, Delavan, WI, respectively.
In commercial hay, perennial winners Dan and Ruth Kamps, Darlington, WI, were named grand champions. Second and third place went to their son, Joshua, and Lecil Church, Sentinel, OK, respectively.
The commercial bale silage winner was Gerald Pitzen, Cuba City, WI. Dan and Ruth Kamps took second place; Joshua Kamps took third.
Top first-time entrant was Sorg Dairy Farm, Glenford, OH.
The annual superbowl is sponsored by Hay & Forage Grower, AgSource Cooperative Services/CRL, DairyBusiness Communications, World Dairy Expo and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.