New Mexico dairies may be better off feeding forage sorghum silage instead of corn silage, says Mark Marsalis.

“The underground water resources that we use for irrigation here in eastern New Mexico are limited,” says Marsalis, a New Mexico State University agronomist at Clovis. “Pumping large amounts of water to produce high-yielding corn silage is not sustainable.”

Last spring, he began a limited-irrigation study comparing yield and nutrient value of corn and two types of forage sorghum. About 20” of water were applied over the 120-day growing period. Typically, corn needs about 30” of water to produce a good crop.

“In the first growing season, both forage sorghums outyielded the corn on a tonnage-per-inch basis,” Marsalis reports. “But we're still looking at the quality data.”

Today, the dairy feed of choice in New Mexico is corn silage, while forage sorghums are used only sporadically. But saving just a little on production costs by moving to forage sorghum could bring major economic benefits because of the volume involved, he says.