Corn that has suffered severe drought damage is sometimes harvested as silage instead of as grain. It can still have significant feed value if harvested at the right stage. See the article "Alternatives for Drought-damaged Corn—Grain Crop or Forage" for harvesting recommendations.
"There are other things you should consider before you decide to harvest drought-damaged corn for forage or silage purposes," says William Edwards, ISU Extension economist.
Contact crop insurance agent before harvesting any damaged corn
First and foremost, any damaged acres that are covered by crop insurance should be viewed by an insurance adjustor and released by the insurance company before harvesting takes place. Whether it's your droughty corn you want to harvest or corn that belongs to someone else, the crop insurance agent should be the first person you or the owner of the standing crop should contact.
Grain producers may be willing to sell corn standing in the field to be harvested by a livestock producer or custom operator. The buyer and the seller must agree on a selling price.
"The seller would need to receive a price that would give at least as good a return as could be received from harvesting the corn as grain," says Edwards. "The buyer would need to pay a price that would not exceed the feeding value of the corn. Within that range the price can be negotiated."
What is drought-damaged corn worth if harvested as silage?
Edwards offers the following explanation and guidelines on how you can figure out how much to pay your neighbor for drought-damaged corn.
One ton of normal, mature standing corn silage at 60% to 70% moisture can be valued at about eight times the price of a bushel of corn. For a $6 corn price, a ton of silage would be worth about $48 per ton. However, drought stressed corn may have only 5 bushels of grain per ton of silage instead of the normal 6 to 7 bushels. A value of about six times the price of corn would be more appropriate. For silage with little grain content, a factor of five times the price of corn can be used.
Spreadsheet is useful for estimating value of corn for silage
If the crop is sold after being harvested and transported, those costs must be added to that value, typically $5 to $10 per ton, depending on whether it is done by a custom operator or the buyer, and the distance it is hauled. A buyer would only consider the variable costs for harvesting and hauling, whereas a custom operator would need to recover fixed costs, as well.
An electronic spreadsheet for estimating a value for corn silage, for both the buyer and the seller, is available here.
For farm management information and analysis go to ISU's Ag Decision Maker site www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm and Extension farm management specialist Steve Johnson's site www.extension.iastate.edu/polk/farmmanagement.htm.