By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer
Corn harvest is in full swing in Roosevelt County but the city-dweller’s notion of a corn harvest involving picking the ears of corn or shelling the kernels doesn’t hold true here in dairy country.
According to dairy specialists most of the corn grown in eastern New Mexico is used as silage, a relatively fine chopping of most of the plant. Wheat and sorghum are also used as silage and some wheat is used as hay.
“Sixty-five percent of a cow’s diet is silage,” said Robert Hagevoort, New Mexico State University extension dairy specialist.
Silage is mixed with hay and other products to feed dairy cows. An average cow will eat 80 to 100 pounds of feed per day with 35 to 40 pounds of the mixture consisting of silage, Hagevoort says.
“Silage is a form of feed used for cows that can be locally grown utilizing water from the (dairy) barn,” said Robert Hagevoort,
By-products from the dairy are used to put on the crops. The farmers use the manure as fertilizer in their fields and the waste water is used to help water the crops, Hagevoort said.
“This is something that supports the local economy. Farmers and dairymen kinda depend on each other, it works out for both,” Hagevoort said.
According to the extension specialist, certain varieties of corn and wheat are grown specifically for silage. When they are harvested depends on many variables. Certain types of corn have different growing times, as does the wheat. It also depends on the time frame in which they were planted, and the weather, he said.
Harvesting the silage also creates another economic leg of the dairy business with custom harvesters being paid to cut the crop.
“It begins at planting time,” said Vivian Jimenez of Jimenez Custom Harvesting. We call all our producers and create charts. We get a schedule going of plant dates. Variety of corn also has a lot to do with it.”
According to Jimenez, corn has to reach a certain starch level before it can be cut. Other factors to include in the decision to harvest are whether there are corn borers and spider mites present, if so, the corn has to be harvested before it falls down.
“The weather controls a lot that we do as custom harvesters,” Jimenez said. “The weather can cause many problems and expenses. With the recent rains, it has slowed the harvest down by not being able to get equipment in the fields.”
Drought can also cause problems with the crop and the harvest, according to Jimenez.
The crop is cut using silage harvesting equipment that blows the feed straight into a trailing truck. At the dairy it can either be packed into bunkers with a packing tractor or bagged into 12 foot by 500 foot bags with a bagging machine, said Jimenez.
Beginning in August, Jimenez Custom Harvesters will have approximately eight weeks to harvest 18,000 acres of corn for silage. Sorghum will come later, in October and November, said Jimenez.
“They (dairymen) need the feed for their cattle, Jimenez said. It’s a lot better to get it local than haul it from other parts of the country. Dairies are a major industry. They bring a lot into Curry and Roosevelt counties.”