In the Southwest U.S., corn silage is a key component of many dairy rations. Controlled water and lots of heat provide prime growing conditions and can even allow for multiple plantings of corn. While this silage contributes to the quality of the ration the main emphasis is digestible fiber rather than on energy. Helping to improve forage quality for the dairy producer is one way they can exert some control of their bottom line in light of long periods of low milk prices. While this is a key goal from the producer’s standpoint, we still need to make sure that this improvement does not come at the expense of lower yields for the grower or input costs that aren’t agronomically feasible.
In 2017 QLF conducted a corn silage trial in the Muleshoe, TX area. Rather than conducting a trial to just determine yield, our local Regional Dairy Tech Manager, Katie Raver, took the opportunity to track feed quality, extrapolating the improvement in feed costs as well as an increase in mineral uptake. This trial was watered via a center pivot. In all areas, we saw what we had hoped for in terms of profitability for the grower and the dairy producer. Not only was more yield achieved at a lower cost, the feed quality gained from plant health and performance on QLF’s LCBF program carried into the ration.
NORMARK FARMS-ELOY, AZ
After the success in Texas, we moved further west and into slightly different growing conditions. Normark Farms grows silage for a large dairy producer using flood irrigation. We were given 2-10 acre blocks for our treatment and 2-10 acre blocks as the control. The control group was grown with grower standard but also included 20 tons/acre of dairy manure which the treated fields did not receive. Our program introduced a liquid starter blend, L-CBF 7-21-3 MKP Starter + Nutricor (biological/micronutrient package). In addition to the unique liquid starter package used in the QLF program, we also compared a carbon-based approach to managing Urea Ammonium Nitrate 32%. Multiple applications of UAN 32% are applied through flood irrigation. QLF utilized L-CBF BOOST 25-0-0, which is a blend of UAN and BOOST at 25% inclusion. The results were outstanding as we saw close to 5 tons an acre increase in yield after it was adjusted to a standard Dry Matter %. Additionally, when calculating nutrients and milk/acre the treated plots showed increases in the following key areas. MILK CWTS- + 27.84, DM TONS + 1.3, TDN + .85 TONS. Dr. Chernicky collaborated with the farmers and QLF’s team. Dairy Tech Manager Katie Raver also assisted with the evaluation of feed quality and agronomics. The field study compared programs and measured crop efficiencies with resulting feed quality differences. Katie Raver says, “we try to relate agronomy back to the ration and positively impacting income over feed costs. We are growing feed and not just a crop, why not take the same steps to grow a bigger pile of more digestible fiber. What better way to bring an ROI back to the dairy!” The significance of these Arizona trial results were also in line with Texas trials years prior.
A) Repeated the improvement in forage quality.
B) Grew substantially more yield with fewer nitrogen inputs.
HART BROTHERS FARMS- MARICOPA, AZ.
The Hart Bros. also grow forages for a large dairy producer and also apply liquid fertilizer through flood irrigation. In this trial, three nitrogen programs were evaluated side by side. There was a single “border” (Field 10) using a grower standard liquid nitrogen blend (26-0-0-6S). A second treatment compared QLF’s carbon-based nitrogen blend (L-CBF BOOST 25-0-0) on the neighboring border (Field 9). And the third treatment in another border (Field 11) received a treatment combining the grower standard liquid nitrogen blend (26-0-0-6S) with 25% inclusion of BOOST (19-0-0-4S). All of the treatments were applied at similar volumes. The outcome of this trial mirrored the others in that there were significant improvements in all categories. Plant partitioning weights were recorded by Dr. Chernicky, segregating total whole plant biomass into, Root Weight, Stalk Weight, Leaf Weight, Ear Weight (see chart). “I’m interested in finding a more efficient way to manage nutrients and have found a carbon-based approach to have clear advantages. Reducing dependencies on high salt fertilizers in our desert soils is a must-do. Working with biology to achieve more with our chemistry is a personal goal of mine,” Dr. Chernicky shares, “Maybe we can move in a better direction toward improving soil health by adding quality carbon sources to our fertilizers.”
Quality Liquid Feeds has operated its feed plant in Casa Grande, Arizona for more than 15 years. Recently QLF has expanded the plant’s capabilities by installing equipment and making renovations to bring the QLF Agronomy side of our business to our customers in AZ, CA, and Mexico. We now have another set of tools to positively impact income over feed costs and just as we’ve help them gain efficiencies with our liquid supplements in rations for our beef and dairy producers, our Liquid Carbon-Based Fertilizer we will also boost crop performance, productivity, and feed quality.