Think “Inside the Box” for Higher Impact

by Corey Catt, Forage Product Manager

Everyone is looking for ways to increase return on investment and to add value.

The Product and Research Team members at Latham Hi-Tech Seeds are looking at 2020 data to evaluate silage hybrids for yield and quality. We’re comparing results from breeder and university trials with independent trials and our own research. We’re thinking about studies and research projects we want to conduct in 2021. Every livestock producer is doing the same. We’re all doing our best to generate meaningful, reliable data that can be used to make future decisions.

It seems that every business coach and motivational speaker encourages us to “think outside the box” for innovative solutions. While attending a church conference a few years ago, however, one of the speakers challenged this way of thinking. He made a comment that really resonated with me. He said, “In today’s economic climate, we should think inside the box.” Inside the box is using the resources you currently have, but modifying them to get a better result. He encouraged us to discover methods that require lower input but deliver higher impact.

After attending that conference, I started thinking about how I could get more or do better with what I already have. For example, how can I adjust my current equipment? How can I alter my existing research projects to deliver more impactful results?

It takes some planning, a lot of patience, as well as eternal optimism. In my endless pursuit to not leave any yield in the field, I have ongoing studies related to plant population and spacing. Years of data shows that we’re delivering 4 to 6 more tons per acre while improving fiber digestibility.

In 2020, we conducted another “inside the box” trial. One grower had a question about chopping height. Because I believe the most relevant data comes from your own farm, I helped him do a quick test on the spot. We raised the chopper height from 12 to 24 inches for a side-by-side test. Because most of the lignin is near the lower portion of the plant, we hoped to increase NDFD numbers with minimal sacrifice to the overall yield.

RESULT: Fiber Digestibility improved by 3.1 points. Each point equates to about one-half pound of milk per head per day, so this increase can be significant. Raising the chopping height also lowered moisture. As we removed fiber, the starch concentration of the ear increased, which dries down the corn silage. The corn became drier. It was a close comparison when comparing milk/ton, milk/acre, and DM tons/acre. However, there were great gains made in fiber digestibility.

Inside the box image

The beginning of a new year is a time to set new goals or to try new things. It seems like a good time to think about how you can think “inside the box” during the 2021 growing season and potentially create higher impact without increasing your inputs.