They only got one grazing from it, but David Leach and George Lake were impressed with the amount of high-quality forage produced by a new crop they tried this summer.
“I think it’s really good stuff,” says Leach, a Cottage Grove, TN, dairyman.
“In a very hot, dry summer, it’s done very well for me,” adds Lake, owner of Thistle Creek Farms, a grass-fed beef operation near Tyrone, PA.
They planted MasterGraze, a tillering brown midrib (BMR) forage corn said to produce up to 5 tons/acre of high-energy, high-protein dry matter in 60 days. Developed by Masters Choice, Inc., Anna, IL, the corn tests up to 20% protein and its BMR trait makes it highly digestible. In addition to the main stalk, each plant has several secondary stalks that enhance yield.
Lyn Crabtree, company president, sees it primarily as a short-term pasture crop that’s especially useful in double-crop situations. But he says it also can be made into silage or baleage if mowed and field-dried to the proper moisture level. It eventually makes small ears, but shouldn’t be allowed to go beyond the vegetative stage because of standability concerns, says Crabtree.
Leach planted seven acres of MasterGraze in late May and turned his 100-plus milking cows into it about 40 days later when it was roughly 6’ tall. He had planned to strip-graze the crop, but ended up giving his herd the whole field. They ate the leaves first, then the stalks got progressively shorter until about 6” remained after seven days of grazing.
“It looked like a field chopper came through there when they were done,” says Leach.
He had planned to plant a second field to the new crop, but after his cows grazed off the first one faster than expected, he replanted it, no-tilling MasterGraze into its own stubble. He started grazing the second planting earlier than the first because the weather turned hot and the field was adjacent to a woods where the cows could get shade.
“You wouldn’t see them out much in the daytime, but at night they really went to work on it,” he says.
Leach didn’t have the crop tested but says his herd produced 1,000 lbs more milk while grazing it. Still, he’s not sure he’ll plant it again next year.
“I stuck too much money in it for as quick as they ate it,” he says. The seed “was 90-some dollars a bag, but you only plant two acres with a bag.” He also applied 100 lbs/acre of nitrogen for the first planting, 70 lbs/acre for the second and thinks he could have gotten by with less.
He’s tried sorghum-sudangrass and says there’s “no comparison. That grazing corn would blow sorghum-sudan off the map. It just doesn’t come back, that’s the kicker.”
Lake is strip grazing his 25 acres of MasterGraze, giving his beef cattle about 10’ of fresh forage three times daily. Planted in late May, it was about 5’ tall when he turned 150 stockers into it two months later. He expects grazing to last until late September. The remaining crop is “quite mature, but that doesn’t slow them down at all, not even on the stalks,” he says.
He hasn’t weighed the cattle. “But I can tell by looking at the animals that they’re smoothing up nicely on it, getting a little bit of tailhead fat, and what I’ve taken out has been marbled real well. I had them on BMR sorghum before that, so they were already on their way.”
He gets three grazings from BMR sorghum, but prefers MasterGraze, in part because it can be planted earlier. He plans to plant two fields next year, the first one in April. Also, he figures this crop will grow better in cooler-than-normal summers.
“Sorghum doesn’t perform well in cool weather, and I think this corn, like any other corn, would continue to grow,” he says.
He planted 32,000 seeds/acre this year, but will bump that up to 35,000 in 2011, also reducing the row spacing to 15 or 20”. The mature crop has a few small ears, and a denser stand likely will have fewer of them. The ears don’t have fully developed kernels, but since he markets grass-fed beef, “I don’t want to see anything that looks like an ear.
“That’s the only con I can think of,” Lake concludes. “Everything else is a pro for me on this crop. I’m excited about it, actually.”