By Scott Staggenborg, Ph.D., S&W Seed Co. Director of Product Marketing

When considering silage needs in 2024, contemplate using a silage sorghum hybrid. Producers often focus on using only corn silage for their dairy ration or as a supplement when grazing is unavailable on their beef operation. But, when looking at the economics and diversity found in sorghum hybrids today, it makes sense to break the mold and try sorghum for a change.

Sorghum is Better Economically

Economically, silage sorghum will always win over corn. To start, on average a bag of sorghum seed is less expensive than a bag of corn seed. The return on investment (ROI) per acre is lower before even harvesting the crop. But then you need to consider the yield, too. Traditionally, sorghum outyields corn on a per-acre basis, so this obviously adds to your ROI per acre.

In fact, I don’t know why you would plant anything but sorghum silage anywhere sorghum can be grown. Sorghum will be more profitable than corn in most cases. Even if sorghum is at 80% or 85% of corn in terms of yield, it’s going to outperform in terms of economics.

For example, trials held at Bushland, Tex. and Kansas State University over three years recently showed that the production cost/acre of corn was $894.82 vs. sorghum at $648.00. Another way to consider the economics is the cost of milk per pound. Based on these trial results, we found the cost to be 80 cents per pound of milk whereas corn is $1.10 per pound of milk.

Sorghum Tolerates Diverse Weather

In addition to considering the cost of seed, growers that irrigate should consider the cost of watering when deciding between corn or sorghum as a silage option. With water resources becoming increasingly expensive or harder to access, sorghum silage is a good option as it is highly efficient in using water.

We already know that conventional sorghum is a drought-tolerant crop. But Double Team Sorghum for Silage also performs well in challenging environments – including where water is limited. In fact, yields are similar to corn while using 30 percent less water.

Sorghum Can Be Weed Free

With the 2023 launch of Double Team Sorghum for Silage, growers now have the option to have weed-free silage—one that was unavailable with sorghum in the past. Planting Double Team Sorghum for Silage provides cleaner fields and higher yields of highly digestible silage. Couple that with lower production costs, and growers can see an improved ROI when compared to using corn silage in 2024.

Sorghum Provides Excellent Animal Feed Value

Working with your nutritionist should be the first step when introducing sorghum silage to your cow’s rations. Growers looking to optimize their silage options with higher nutritional value at a lower cost should look to sorghum. Corn may have increased starch and, therefore, be more desirable for cows that have just freshened and need the increased energy. However, for dry cows or heifers getting ready to calve for the first time, a more economical silage could help producers watch their pocketbook while still providing quality feed to their animal.

This also holds true on a cow-calf beef operation where silage is used as a supplement to grass. You want something that will fill up their belly without being super expensive. That’s why sorghum is a good fit!

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Grassy Weed Reference Chart

Grass Species% Yield ReductionSources
Johnson Grass100%Bean (1991)
Shattercane80-96%Stahlman and Wicks (2000), Original Veseckt et al (1973)
Longpine Sandbur42%Thompson, Dille, and Peterson (2017), Original Fabrizius (1998)
Yellow Foxtail44%Stahlman and Wicks (2000), Original (Feltner et al (1969b))
Barnyardgrass44%Stahlman and Wicks (2000), Original (B.A. Smith(1990))
Prairie Cupgrass42%Stahlman and Wicks (2000), Original (Stahlman and Northam (1992))
Texas and Brown Panicum80%Garcia et al (2019)

Seeding Rate

If planting in 20 inch rows or less always use the higher rates. Increase seeding rate by 20% if planting is delayed significantly to account for lower tillering rates.

Yield GoalSeed/acre
<80 bu/acre< 4,500 lbs/acre25-30,000
80-125 bu/acre4,000-5,600 lbs/acre40-55,000
125+ bu/acre7,000+ lbs/acre55-70,000
IrrigatedIrrigated80-120,000