The earlier harvest (black layer or 34-36% grain moisture) allows more potential for winter forage crops following corn for grain. Also, the cost of purchasing fiber is high this year as well, so it pays to use more of that produced on farm.
Follow early harvest with small grain silage
A small grain silage crop planted immediately after early corn harvest could provide high energy feedstuffs. One of the best in this regard is barley, harvested at the soft-dough stage.
"This is a practice done by some Lancaster County (Pennsylvania) producers who direct-cut in the narrow window when whole plant barley is in that soft dough or 35% dry matter stage, often in mid to late May," explains Roth. "Then they double-crop with corn."
This provides a supplemental silage crop for use during summer that's nearly equal to corn silage. It provides a winter cover crop, a place to spread manure in late spring and a way to spread out planting and harvesting. It also helps to reduce drought risk, since barley is fairly drought tolerant.
All of these strategies require some additional management and consultation with the nutritionist, he cautions. But they appear to have some potential for increasing energy production per acre and ultimately reducing feed costs. And that's hugely critical.