Autumn is here and it is time to begin analyzing last year’s hybrids and begin planning which ones to plant next year. This, of course, is the most important decision of the year. Mundane topics such as who to vote for and whether to root for the Packers or someone else (people actually root for teams other than the Packers!?!?), pale in comparison. It is also a good time to revisit the Better than BMR System.
Special hybrids planted in the Better than BMR (BTBMR) System have won the World Dairy Expo (WDE) Forage SuperBowl (FASB) Conventional (non BMR) Category four of the last five years with a majority of the top ten finishers also using the BTBMR. 2023 results will be announced on 10-4-2023 at the Superbowl banquet at WDE.
The Watrin Family
Mark Watrin, owner of Watrin Farms, Inc., in Sandstone (not Pipestone), MN. Sandstone is about halfway between Duluth and St. Paul, not the center of dairy farming in Minnesota. The family, wife Shannon, and the three (of six) children who have not yet flew the coop, Mary, 16; George, 14; Emily,12; milk 550 Holsteins, plus raise all their heifers.
All of the family helps when silage bunks are covered, but George is regular help on the dairy. Shannon, a farm relation specialist for Midwest Dairy Inc, also helps with the administration duties, PR duties, and cooks and delivers meals to the tractor drivers during planting and harvest.
For ten years, Mark raised BMR corn silage (CS) for his dairy herd. In 2021, after learning of Forage Innovations (FI) on FI’s Facebook page, Mark planted 30 acres of a BTBMR System corn, KF43C30, split between the two soil types which Mark has on the farm.
Compared to the his BMR hybrid, the BTBMR yielded 3.5 tons more yield per acre. The starch content of the resultant BTBMR CS was also 4.5 percentage points higher. Additionally, the seed cost was $58/acre compared to $110 for the BMR. Mark commented, “it almost seemed wrong to plant corn at a population of 25,500 compared to his BMR pops of 31,800-33,000 seeds per acre.” Obviously, it makes both dollars and sense!
The first crop of BTBMR was not segregated from the BMR in storage, but Mark had seen enough agronomically and from the early feed tests to jump totally to BTBMR in the planting for 2022. Mark has always maintained a ten-month reserve of corn silage to allow the BMR’s vitreous starch to become more digestible (which will not need to be done with the BTBMR due to its floury starch).
With the BMR running out in July 2023, the BTBMR corn silage has been fed since then. The high-producing Holsteins have not missed a lick. They are over 94 ECM on a diet of 52 lbs. DM of which 25 lbs. DM is the BTBMR corn silage. The rest of the forage is still alfalfa. Mark is beginning to experiment with Red Clover on some poorer ground which he now uses for DC and heifer feed. A cocktail mix (Yield Max) is starting to enter the picture also.
What Exactly is Better than BMR?
There are four major qualities for a hybrid to be successfully utilized as a BTBMR:
- The hybrid must be very digestible to begin with. This inherent digestibility will be increased in the BTBMR system.
- The hybrid should display floury starch. Typically, the cobs will be white or pink (and more digestible themselves). This allows for rapid starch availability for feeding soon after harvest. BMR hybrids will normally be very vitreous and therefore require a long period in fermentation before the starch becomes more completely available. According to work done by MSU (Allen, 2006), vitreous starch never catches up to the floury varieties.
- Maximum ear flex is a necessary quality for BTBMR to provide the bushels of corn equal or greater than the higher planting populations. Often, two equal ears per stalk occur.
- Many hybrids have ear flex, but they must also exhibit an adequate stalk expansion to create both the yield and the digestibility enhancement. The principle is, when the stalk expands, the lignin (only in the outer rind) becomes a lower percentage of the NDF while the very digestible center (mostly hemicellulose, cellulose, and sugar) becomes a greater percentage of the plant. This is analogous to silo diameters. As a silo gets a wider diameter, the silage capacity increases in a nonlinear fashion. When lignin (really the uNDF240) goes down as a percentage of the NDF, digestibility or NDFD30 increases. In the case of the Watrin’s BTBMB, NDFD30 was only one half point lower than his BMR, plus the starch was 4.5 percentage units higher!
- In dry years, like we have had here, the yield difference between BTBMR and BMR will be increased with the smaller populations of BTBMR.
- To summarize, BTBMR will be much less expensive to plant, exhibit nearly the same NDFD30 and contain 3-5 percentage units higher starch with higher yield and better agronomics than BMR. It will also fight through all of the vagaries of corn the corn growing year with its much stronger agronomic package.
If you have any questions about the BTBMR system, please contact either Daniel Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org or me at email@example.com or 608-516-0101. We have already discovered which hybrids fit in this system!
2023 WDE Forage Analysis Superbowl
If you visit the 2023 World Dairy Expo, you can see the Byron Seeds display of stalks (if our drought has not carried us past corn silage time!) raised in the BTBMR system and see the winners of the 2023 Forage Analysis Superbowl after Wednesday afternoon in the new trade center area.