By Dean Hauser
Corn silage has been a popular feedstuff for the beef cattle industry for many years. Only recently has wheat silage, or wheatlage, become another popular feedstuff. Since all silage is used for roughage in beef cattle rations, wheatlage can be used as a direct replacement for corn silage. I have been wondering why some producers have made the switch. I inquired to industry personnel to find out why.
Why should a producer switch to wheatlage?
The first reason for the change is cost. Input costs for wheatlage are less than corn, reducing risk for the grower. Since the input costs are lower than corn, it becomes a more competitive option for feed yards looking to reduce feed expenses.
Another reason to switch to wheatlage is that it’s harvested in the spring, opposed to corn silage harvest in the fall. Having another harvest window helps spread risk, helping the grower and the feed yard with their respective risk management strategies. Wheatlage also helps the feed yard with its inventory management. They can purchase less corn silage in the fall because they will have another harvest before corn silage harvest one year in the future. Also, since wheatlage is harvested relatively early in the spring, the grower can plant a summer crop. This allows the grower to maximize revenue and profits per acre.
When comparing the actual feed, wheatlage has a greater roughage content than corn silage, but this comes at the cost of energy content. However, for beef cattle rations energy can be added in other ways.
The BiG M 400 really excels in wheatlage. With up to a 32 foot cutting width and the ability to put all of the crop into one swath, one BiG M 400 can cut enough wheat to supply two forage harvesters. It is available with steel rollers or V-tine conditioners. The conditioners do an excellent job of preparing the crop for quick dry down. The cutting height is adjustable from the cab, so the stubble height is always right, and there is a memory function that will save two different cutting heights, allowing the operator to quickly change to leave the desired amount of stubble. The front axle suspension increases operator comfort, resulting in less operator fatigue.
The BiG M 400 has the capacity of 2 conventional windrowers. Since the BiG M 400 can put all of the crop in one windrow, a tractor and rake can also be eliminated. This allows one operator and one machine to do the work of three operators and three machines. The obvious savings is in labor costs, however fuel costs on a per acre and per ton basis are also reduced.
The machine has two different operating modes: field and road. In field mode, top cutting speed is 12 mph. Engine operating speed is 1900 RPM. In road mode, top speed is 25 mph. Also in road mode, engine speed is adjusted automatically, with top operating speed of 1600 RPM. This results in fuel savings and decreased noise levels. Even with a cutting width of up to 32 feet, the machine folds to a transport width of less than 10 feet. This makes moving from field to field much easier and safer than competitive machines.
Wheatlage is a great fit for the beef cattle industry. The BiG M 400 is a great fit for wheatlage. Great partners!