Silage Earlage Decision Aid Back »

Making corn silage at MODAK Dairy, Kranzburg, SD. Photo by MODAK Dairy

Written collaboratively by Jack Davis and Shannon Sand.

The Silage/Earlage Decision Aid calculator is a useful tool for crop producers and livestock feeders to estimate silage costs.

A few of the questions that arise when cutting a crop for silage include:

  • What the value per acre of the crop is if harvested for grain or as silage?
  • What will the crop yield for silage?
  • What is the cost of the silage delivered to the bunk?
  • How many acres do I need to cut to meet my feed inventory needs?

SDSU Extension Field Specialists along with the South Dakota Center for Farm and Ranch Management have developed the Silage/Earlage Decision Aid to assist in answering those very questions. Producers have the opportunity to enter their own numbers into each of three sections to the calculator: Section one reveals the value of a ton of silage or the value/acre to the crop grower. Expected cash corn price, silage dry matter, estimated grain yield, harvesting costs and value of stover removed are all inputs that are required.

Section two assists the producer in calculating the value of a ton of silage when harvest and hauling costs are included and a shrink factor is applied. Section three calculates the number of acres needed to be harvested to meet the wintering needs of all livestock to be fed this forage. Input values needed include number of cows and calves, days to be fed, volume of feed, per head, fed daily and the dry matter content of the silage.

This tool is available in two versions:

  • The quick version (below) calculates the costs of corn silage standing in the field. Insert values from your farm into the yellow cells and the spreadsheet will automatically calculate. Your data is not collected or saved in this form.
  • The downloadable full version includes calculations for silage by ton, silage by acre, acreage, earlage, custom expenses and information about feed composition. This is a downloadable tool that can be saved on your computer. 



This tool was developed through a parntership between SDSU Extension and the South Dakota Center for Farm/Ranch Management.

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