HUMBOLDT, SK—The Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) is about half way through a three-year research project that will close the knowledge gap around corn forage production in Saskatchewan as an economically viable option for feeding cattle.

Interest in corn production for silage is growing in the province, said Dr. Joy Agnew, project manager with PAMI Agricultural Research Services, but agronomic recommendations are out of step with new hybrids developed for the province’s particular growing conditions. There is also a lack of information about the cost of corn production compared to other, more traditional silage crops like barley.

“Given the high input costs for corn and the slim margins in the beef industry, producers need the most accurate information possible in order to maximize their profitability.”

The research, which began in the spring of 2016 and is funded by the Ministry of Agriculture’s Canada-Saskatchewan Growing Forward 2 agreement, the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association and PAMI, involves seeding different brands of corn at different rates and with different nitrogen fertilizer rates at each site, Agnew explained.

The work is being done at five Agri-ARM (Applied Research Management) sites across the province and at PAMI’s test site at Lanigan, she said. Monsanto and Pioneer are supporting the research project by providing seed corn, and Vaderstad donated a planter.

After harvest in each of the three years, forage samples are analyzed for total digestible nitrogen and crude protein, key indicators of feed quality. Tons-per-acre yield data for each seed brand and each seeding and nitrogen rate is also being collected.

Although there is still data to come from this year and 2018, Agnew said she is encouraged by what she sees in the results from 2016.

“There appear to be some statistically significant trends developing so we’re anxious to see the results we get over the next two years so we can do a detailed economic analysis of production costs and the feed value of corn. All of the data will enable us to provide growers with really valuable information about cost-effective forage production.”

“The Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association is interested in finding new methods that will help ensure the health and nutrition of our cattle, as well as the economic sustainability of our producers,” said Marianne Possberg, Beef Production Specialist, Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association. “We appreciate the work conducted by PAMI researchers.”