Wheat Silage is Option for Farmers Needing Feed
Dairy farmers who need forage supplies may want to consider harvesting wheat as silage, say Ohio State specialists.
Wheat can be harvested for silage between the late boot stage and no later than when the developing kernels are in the milky ripe stage. By the week ending June 7, much of Ohio's wheat will likely be past boot and into flowering, says plant pathologist Pat Lipps. The milky ripe stage occurs 10 days to two weeks after flowering.
Dairy specialist Maurice Eastridge says tonnage from wheat silage will be much less compared to corn silage. However, wheat silage can help fill a feed gap until the first hay crop is made and until corn silage is harvested later in the summer.
To provide a balanced ration, farmers should feed wheat silage with other forage supplies such as corn silage, Eastridge says. It is also important to store wheat silage separately. Compared to alfalfa, wheat silage is lower in protein but has about the same energy level. Wheat silage has more protein than corn silage, but less energy.
"I would not feed wheat silage as the sole forage," Eastridge says. "Producers should adjust the ration depending on the level and quality of other forages."
Eastridge also says it is important to reformulate the diet after the farmer switches to and from a diet containing wheat silage.
There should be no palatability problems unless the wheat is diseased. "It could affect animal health, but the most likely thing would be a reduction in feed intake," Eastridge says.
Head scab is a concern. However, Lipps says it produces vomitoxin only in the head, and is diluted when chopped with the rest of plant.
Farmers can scout for head scab by looking for bleached out florets during milky ripe stage. If the infection looks serious, a lab analysis will measure the amount of vomitoxin in the feed.
As of May 1, Ohio hay stocks amounted to 173,000 tons, or slightly less than half of a 376,000-ton inventory for the same date one year ago, the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service reported.
Ohio's alfalfa production dropped by 21 percent to 2.1 million tons after a 2.6 million-ton harvest in 1995, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Yields dropped from 3.8 tons per acre in 1995 to 3 tons per acre in 1996. In addition, corn silage production dropped by almost one-quarter last year, the USDA reported.
"The inventory of forages is low," Eastridge says. "Yield on forages were low last year, compared to what we really need."