Compensation to farmers a growing concern

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An increasing demand for wheatlage contracts by dairies for ensilage is causing a dilemma for High Plains producers.

Drought conditions in the southwest Panhandle are creating a potential forage deficit in the region, and this is driving up the demand and price for forage silage, said Jourdan Bell, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist, Amarillo.

This could mean fewer producers will be taking their wheat crop to grain harvest, opting instead to cash in on diverse forage options for livestock producers, including wheatlage.

Wheatlage is the process of cutting and ensiling wheat as a silage crop to preserve forage quality, Bell said, and is one of the cheapest forages to produce. Wheatlage is generally chopped when wheat is at the soft dough stage and forage moisture is favorable for fermentation.

Because wheatlage provides an opportunity for producers to harvest earlier and possibly go back with a second crop or even a summer silage such as corn or forage sorghum, if they have the well capacity, there are more people looking at it as an alternative to straight grazing or grain, said Rick Auckerman, AgriLife Extension agriculture and natural resources agent for Deaf Smith County. Wheatlage is typically harvested in April, whereas the wheat going to grain is harvested in June.

Auckerman said a producer planning to contract wheatlage will typically plant higher seed populations and plan for potentially more irrigation in drier years.

“We know there are contracts out there for our producers, but we are cautioning producers to investigate before committing, as the terms may not be favorable,” he said.