Utilizing Sorghum-Sudan Silage

The Penn State dairy herd feeds sorghum-sudan silage for the first time with success.
Utilizing Sorghum-Sudan Silage - Articles


Penn State Dairy Cows

It finally felt like spring was coming. I continued to keep the herd on 60% forage since corn silage quality is not the best in regards to starch content and fiber digestibility. Animal performance remained very consistent. There were several forage changes in April, but it did not appear to affect production.

During April a transition was made from bag 6 to bag 5 alfalfa haylage. Upright silo 2 corn silage was close to being emptied so the herd was transitioned over into upright silo 3. Table 1 shows the analyses on the corn silages and haylages fed in April. The new bag of alfalfa haylage was better in quality and the new corn silage was lower in quality. Until the very end of April, the herd remained on a combination of the haylages and corn silages from the different structures. In addition to the upright silages, a bag of corn silage was fed as well. It tested low in starch and digestibility and was a nice compliment to silo 2, which tested very well. However, silo 3 was very similar in quality to the bagged corn silage. A new feeding strategy will be needed for May to deal with the lower quality silage.

Table 1. Analyses of alfalfa haylage and corn silage fed in April.
Bag 6Bag 5Upright 2Upright 3
haylage (old)1haylage (new)CS (old)1CS (new)
Dry matter, %49.846.746.738.4
Crude protein, %18.419.56.77.9
Neutral detergent fiber, %47.542.334.540.5
Starch, %--44.133.2
7-hr starch dig., % starch--77.281.9

1Bag 6 haylage was fed at a 33% inclusion level of total haylage dry matter and silo 2 corn silage at 33% inclusion level of total corn silage dry matter.

An area we have focused on for the past few years is how to maintain adequate dry cow and heifer forage so corn silage can be used solely for the lactating herd. With droughts being common place in Pennsylvania it is hard to justify feeding high-energy forages like corn silage to animal groups that don't need it. In our situation harvesting enough grass silage and hay has always been a challenge and in drought years we usually don't meet our tonnage requirements. Last year we were successful in convincing Farm Operations to grow sorghum-sudan silage. They harvested 800 tons of sorghum-sudan and 150 tons of grass silage. We started the sorghum-sudan silage two months ago. So far it has been a great addition to our inventory. The use of grass hay has been significantly reduced in all rations, which is very positive since we tend to run short on grass hay. The alfalfa haylage is supplementing the sorghum-sudan silage in the dry cow ration, which seems to be working. Cows have been on this diet for two months and so far everyone is freshening without any problems. The heifers are receiving little to no hay with the sorghum-sudan making up the majority of the ration. I hope we can continue to incorporate this into our forage inventory.

For the month of April the herd averaged 86.4 pounds with a 3.73% milk fat, 3.15% milk protein, 145,000 SCC and 7.9 mg/dl MUN.

IOFC Results

Month and YearGross Milk Price/cwtMilk income/cowFeed cost/cowIOFCAverage milk lbsLow BenchmarkHigh benchmark

IOFC Graph