Hay Moisture Levels

Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County
Dan Lima, OSU Extension Educator, Belmont County

With the limited opportunities and shortwindows many have had to make hay so far this year, some hay may have been made at higher moisture levels than we would like. Moisture levels have a direct effect on hay quality. What we have found to be a consistent number in the literature is 20% moisture maximum. To be more specific:

  1. Small squares to be 20% or less,
  2. Large round, 18% or less and
  3. Large squares, 16%

Hay baled at 20% moisture or higher has a high probability of developing mold, which will decrease the quality of hay by decreasing both protein and total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNC). A.K.A. Energy! The mold will also make the hay less palatable to livestock and could potentially be toxic, especially for horses. Even hay baled between 15%-20% moisture will experience what is known as “sweating.” Sweating, in regard to hay bales, refers to microbial respiration, which will create heat and result in dry matter (DM) loss. A good rule of thumb is that you should expect a 1% DM loss per 1% decrease of moisture after baling. As an example, hay baled at 20% moisture that is stored and dried down to 12%; will result in 8% DM loss.

What happens if we bale hay and the moisture content is too high? Bad things. If lucky, maybe the hay will only mold, but if it is too moist and starts heating, it could catch fire. If the hay heats to 100-120 degrees F, it will be fine; if it goes above that, monitor daily. Once it gets to 140 degrees F, consider tearing down the stack. At 150-160 degrees F, call the fire department, and once it gets to 160 degrees F, there will be smoldering pockets and hot spots, and gases will ignite hay when exposed to air (source: Washington State University Extension, Steve Fransen and Ned Zaugg).

It can be a double edged sword in regards to losing quality by not baling, or losing quality by baling with moisture levels that are too high. Therefore, our recommendation to ensure adequate livestock nutrition this winter is to have a forage analysis done on the hay baled this year. Once you have those results, develop a corresponding supplemental feed program, if necessary, based on the nutritional requirements of your livestock.

The two short videos below by Clif Little and Rory Lewandowski will answer questions regarding forage testing, and subsequently interpreting the results of the test(s).



Ohio Ag Law Blog—Prevented planting, idle land, and CAUV taxation

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Tuesday, June 18th, 2019
Original Source:
The decision on whether to take prevented planting is a tough one, but don’t let concerns about increased property taxes on idle land enter into the equation.  Ohio’s Current Agricultural Use Valuation program allows landowners to retain the benefit of CAUV tax assessment on agricultural land even if the land lies idle or fallow for a period of time.

Ohio’s CAUV program provides differential property tax assessment to parcels of land “devoted exclusively to agricultural use” that are ten acres or more or, if less than ten acres, generated an average gross income for the previous three years of $2,500 or more from commercial agricultural production.  Timber lands adjacent to CAUV land, land enrolled in federal conservation programs, and land devoted to agritourism or bio-mass and similar types of energy production on a farm also qualify for CAUV.

There must have been some farmers in the legislature when the CAUV law was enacted, because the legislature anticipated the possibility that qualifying CAUV lands would not always be actively engaged in agricultural production.   The law allows CAUV land to sit “idle or fallow” for up to one year and remain eligible for CAUV, but only if there’s not an activity or use taking place on the land that’s inconsistent with returning the land to agricultural production or that converts the land from agricultural production.  After one year of lying idle or fallow, a landowner may retain the CAUV status for up to three years by showing good cause to the board of revision for why the land is not actively engaged in agricultural production.

The law would play out as follows.  When the auditor sends the next CAUV reenrollment form for a parcel that qualifies for CAUV but was not planted this year due to the weather, a landowner must certify that the land is still devoted to agricultural production and return the CAUV form to the auditor.  The auditor must allow the land to retain its CAUV status the first year of lying idle or fallow, as long as the land is not being used or converted to a non-agricultural use.  If the land continues to be idle or fallow for the following year or two years, the auditor could ask the landowner to show cause as to why the land is not being used for agricultural production.  The landowner would then have an opportunity to prove that the weather has prevented plans to plant field crops, as intended by the landowner.  After three years, the landowner would have to change the land to a different type of commercial agricultural production to retain its CAUV status if the weather still prevents the ability to plant field crops on the parcel.  Other agricultural uses could include commercial animal or poultry husbandry, aquaculture, algaculture, apiculture, the production for a commercial purpose of timber, tobacco, fruits, vegetables, nursery stock, ornamental trees, sod, or flowers, or the growth of timber for a noncommercial purpose, if the land on which the timber is grown is contiguous to or part of a parcel of land under common ownership that is otherwise devoted exclusively to agricultural use.

Being forced out of the fields due to rain is a frustrating reality for many Ohio farmers today.   One positive assurance we can offer in the face of prevented planting is that farmers won’t lose agricultural property tax status on those fields this year.  Read Ohio’s CAUV law in the Ohio Revised Code at sections 5713.30 and 5713.31.

Risk Management Agency Announces Changes to Cover Crop Harvest Date on Prevented Acres

At Wednesday night’s forage management program, we discussed utilizing summer annuals in hay and grazing situations. We also provided some tips for haying and grazing cover crops on prevented planting acres. Earlier today the Risk Management Agency announced changes to the haying and grazing date for prevented planting acres. See more details below.


RMA Announces Change to Haying and Grazing Date for Prevented Planting Acres Planted to a Cover Crop

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2019 – Farmers who planted cover crops on prevented plant acres will be permitted to hay, graze or chop those fields earlier than November this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today. USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) adjusted the 2019 final haying and grazing date from November 1 to September 1 to help farmers who were prevented from planting because of flooding and excess rainfall this spring.

“We recognize farmers were greatly impacted by some of the unprecedented flooding and excessive rain this spring, and we made this one-year adjustment to help farmers with the tough decisions they are facing this year,” said Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey. “This change will make good stewardship of the land easier to accomplish while also providing an opportunity to ensure quality forage is available for livestock this fall.”

RMA has also determined that silage, haylage and baleage should be treated in the same manner as haying and grazing for this year. Producers can hay, graze or cut cover crops for silage, haylage or baleage on prevented plant acres on or after September 1 and still maintain eligibility for their full 2019 prevented planting indemnity.

“These adjustments have been made for 2019 only,” said RMA Administrator Martin Barbre. “RMA will evaluate the prudence of a permanent adjustment moving forward.”

Other USDA Programs
Other USDA agencies are also assisting producers with delayed or prevented planting. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is extending the deadline to report prevented plant acres in select counties, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is holding special sign-ups for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program in certain states to help with planting cover crops on impacted lands. Contact your local FSA and NRCS offices to learn more.

More Information
Read our frequently asked questions to learn more about prevented plant.

Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents. A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA Service Centers and online at the RMA Agent Locator. Learn more about crop insurance and the modern farm safety net at


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.



The Brown County Extension Support Committee Will Host the Kick-Off Reunion Dinner

The Brown County Extension Support Committee will host the Kick-Offf Reunion dinner on Wednesday, June 26, 2019. The program will be held at Rhonemus Hall on the Brown County Fairgrounds. Dinner will begin at 6:00 PM, followed by a brief meeting. The Brown County Extension Support Committee will share information about their goal to raise funds to support local extension staffing. See the attached flyer for more details.

If you have any questions contact the Brown County Extension Support Committee Chairman, Paul Hall (937-444-2988).

Farm Bill Update: Dairy Margin Coverage


The Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program is the new safety net for dairy producers authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill, replacing the Margin Protection Program (MPP). Many changes have been made to the dairy safety net, including changes in coverage levels, premiums and discounts, feed cost calculations, and more. Join OSU Extension and the USDA Farm Service Agency for a free program to learn about the DMC and how to use decision tools to evaluate your farm’s coverage options and costs.

Brown County: Wednesday, June 26, 2019, from 10am-12pm. The program will be held at the Brown County Extension Office (325 W. State St., Georgetown, OH 45121).

More details and other location information can be found on the attached flyer. Additional programs will be held for the crop titles of the Farm Bill at a later date. 

Ohio Ag Law Blog – The Ag Law Harvest

Written by Evin Bachelor, Law Fellow, OSU Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Here’s our latest gathering of agricultural law news that you may want to know:

Congress considers bankruptcy code changes with Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019.  Senator Grassley and Representative Delgado introduced companion bills in their respective chambers of Congress that would modify the definition of “family farmer” in the federal bankruptcy code.  The change would raise the operating debt limit for a family farmer from $3.2 million as listed in the U.S. Code to $10 million.  Sometimes a small change can make a big difference.  In chapter 12 of the bankruptcy code, a “family farmer” has special options that other chapters do not offer, such as the power to determine a long-term payment schedule and pay the present market value of the asset instead of the amount due on the loan.  Many farmers had not been able to take advantage of the special bankruptcy provisions because of the low debt limit, but that may change.  For more information on the bills, click HERE for S.897 and HERE for H.R. 2336.

Congress also considers changing the number of daily hours a driver may transport livestock.  The Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act would instruct the Secretary of Transportation to amend the rules governing drivers who transport certain animals.  The changes would loosen restrictions on the number of hours that drivers may drive, and increase the types of activities that are exempt from counting toward the maximum time.  Travel under 300 miles would be exempt from the hours of service (HOS) and electronic logging (ELD) requirements.  Both chambers of Congress are considering this bill, and both companion bills are currently in committee.  For more information on the bills and to learn about the changes proposed, click HERE for S.1255 and HERE for H.R. 487.

It’s not too late to submit comments to the FDA about its potential cannabidiol rulemaking.  Electronic or written comments can be sent to the FDA until July 2nd, although the deadline to request to make an oral presentation or comment at tomorrow’s hearing has passed.  Click HERE for more information from the Federal Register about the May 31st hearing and submitting comments.


Meatpackers face second class-action lawsuit, and R-CALF refiles.  In our last edition of The Harvest, we talked about a new class-action lawsuit filed in Illinois federal court by a number of cattle ranchers, including R-CALF, against the nation’s largest meatpacking companies.  Now, another lawsuit has been filed in Minnesota federal court also alleging a price fixing conspiracy by the meatpackers.  The second lawsuit is being brought by a cattle futures trader, rather than a rancher.  After the second suit was filed, R-CALF voluntarily dismissed its case in Illinois to refile it in Minnesota.  This refiling allows the lawsuits to be heard by the same court.


Tyson sues the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.  Tyson, which is named as a defendant in the class action suits we just mentioned, is a plaintiff in a case against the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.  The company alleges that a FSIS inspector falsified an inspection of 4,622 hogs, which were intermingled with another 8,000 carcasses, at one of its Iowa facilities in 2018.  The company claims that the false inspection required it to destroy all of the carcasses, and cost nearly $2.5 million in total losses and expenses.  The complaint, which is available HERE, alleges four counts: negligence, negligent inspection, negligent retention, and negligent supervision.  The lawsuit is based on the legal principle that an employer is liable for the actions of its employee.



Ohio Case Law Update


Plaintiff must prove that a defendant wedding barn operator’s breach of a duty caused her harm.  Conrad Botzum Farmstead is a privately operated wedding and event barn located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area and on lease from the National Park Service.  The plaintiff in the case was attending a wedding at the barn, where she broke her ankle while dancing on a wooden deck.  The jury trial found that the barn operator was 51% at fault for her injuries, and awarded the plaintiff compensation.  However, the barn operator appealed the decision and won.  The Ohio Ninth District Court of Appeals found that the plaintiff did not introduce sufficient evidence to prove that any act or breach of duty by the barn operator actually or proximately caused the plaintiff to fall and break her ankle.  The case raises standard questions of negligence, but it is worth noting in the Ag Law Blog because the court did not base its decision on Ohio’s agritourism immunity statute.  The case is cited as Tyrrell v. Conrad Botzum Farmstead, 2019-Ohio-1874 (9th Dist.), and the decision is available HERE.


Ohio History Connection can use eminent domain to cancel Moundbuilders Country Club’s lease.  A Licking County judge ruled in early May that the Ohio History Connection, formerly the Ohio Historical Society, can reclaim full ownership of land that it had leased to a country club.  The Moundbuilders County Club has operated a golf course around prehistoric Native American earthworks for decades under a long-term lease with the state.  The Ohio History Connection sought to have the lease terminated in order to give the public full access to the earthworks as part of a World Heritage List nomination.  The judge viewed the request as sufficiently in the public interest to apply Ohio’s eminent domain laws.

Making High Quality Baleage

Mr. Jason Hartschuh, Extension Educator for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Crawford County, The Ohio State University Extension

Spring 2019 has been challenging to say the least. Hay fields have disappeared due to winter kill and small grains matured before we could make hay. Making the forages that you have at the highest quality possible will be key. One way to maintain forage quality with small dry weather windows is to make silage or baleage instead of dry hay. The ideal conditions for baleage is to bale the hay between 40 to 65% moisture and wrap within 2 hours of baling. This process uses anaerobic conditions and the acids produced in fermentations to preserve hay. Baleage fermentation is slower than in haylage, often taking 6 weeks. When forage is baled between 25 to 40% moisture, it will not ferment properly and baleage at these moisture levels should be considered as temporary storage. During such situations, preservation is primarily a function of maintaining anaerobic, oxygen-limiting conditions. Mold is very likely at this moisture; higher bale densities and more wraps of plastic is required to better seal out oxygen. Baleage at this moisture will not maintain quality very long in storage, and thus, it needs to be fed as soon as possible. Baleage can be utilized as a plan or as a backup, but the best baleage is a plan and not a rescue.

If you are thinking baleage might be a needed option for you, either as planned or when your dry hay window disappears, start your plan before you are calling around to find a bale wrapper. The first consideration is how fast will you be able to feed the forage? This is a major consideration when selecting the type of bale wrapper you will buy or rent. The two options are individual wrappers, which are usually ideal if feeding 50 head or less from these bales. These machines can usually wrap 20 to 30 bales per hour and use twice as much plastic as a line wrapper.  Line wrappers can wrap 40 to 50 bales per hour using less plastic, but they require uniformity between bales. When bales aren’t uniform, there is oxygen captured between bales, often leading to spoilage within the tube of bales where bales meet. They require higher feed-out rates of ideally two bales per day. With a line wrapper, the end of the next bale is exposed to oxygen when you remove one bale to feed and the spoilage clock begins.

Determining where you will be storing bales ahead of time is very important. Making sure that the plastic is not punctured, allowing oxygen to enter and spoil the forage, due to storage site selection is critical. Ideal storage is in a well-drained location with year around access. Stone pads can work well as long as they don’t puncture the plastic. Be weary of storing on stubble, grassy areas, or under trees. These areas often attract rodents, lead to plastic damage, or have sticks that fall and puncture the plastic. Stored forage should be checked weekly for damage and holes taped as soon as they are found.

While KEEPING OXYGEN OUT is the most important part of making high quality baleage, it starts with mowing. When baleage is the planned storage method, your harvest capacity-limiting factor will be how many bales you can wrap an hour with the ideal goal of wrapping the bales within 4 hours. Based on research done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we recommend laying swaths as wide as your mower will allow, helping preserve forage quality and speeds up drying to 65% moisture by 10.8 hours. When baling, your goal needs to be for the highest density bales that you can make. A study from Penn State shows that by increasing bale density from 6 lb/ft3to 8lb/ft3,you gain an extra 12 hours of bunk life in the haylage due mostly to better bale fermentation. It is important to wrap bales as soon as possible after baling to avoid spoilage. The temperatures of bales that were wrapped each day from at baling to 4 days after baling are provided in Figure 1 (data from University of Wisconsin). With the temperature on day one representing the actual day of wrapping. These data show that just 24 hours after baling, the  bales that are not wrapped were over 120ºF. While wrapping bales even 4 days after baling stopped the heating process, the quality of these bales still declined.

Most bale wrap is one mil low-density polyethylene and bales need a minimum of 5 mils of plastic to seal out oxygen, requiring a minimum of 6 wraps. Types of plastic vary greatly in their stretchiness, which can reduce thickness by up to 25%. Some stretch is necessary so that the plastic stays sticky and seals well between the layers of plastic. Be cautious when wrapping in the rain as this will reduce the stickiness and allow more oxygen to penetrate, causing spoilage. Also, be cautious when wrapping forages that poke through the plastic which will require more layers. When oxygen enters the bale, they start to heat and quality declines when temperatures are over 120ºF.  The amount of time until bales are wrapped and the number of mils of wrap significantly effects internal bale temperature. Figure 2 shows that 6 to 12 mils of plastic maintained similar bale quality. With less wraps than this, bale spoilage is often prevalent. The general recommendations for layers of bale wrap are provided in Table 1.

Table 1. General recommendations for layers of bale wrap.

Moisture (%) Fermentations Layers of plastic
< 30% Possible, but not ideal for fermentation. Some mold growth likely 8 layers minimum to ensure oxygen exclusion
30 to 45% Possible, but not ideal for fermentation. Some mold growth could occur 8 layers minimum to ensure oxygen exclusion
45 to 60% Ideal for baleage production and fermentations Use 6 layers of 1 mil film
60 to 70% Possible, but high moisture can result in spoilage and low palatability 8 layers of wrap to ensure oxygen exclusion
>70% Too wet for proper fermentation, baleage production is not recommended Wait for the forage to dry down further before bailing

After bales are wrapped, handle them carefully using a squeeze so that plastic is not torn. If plastic is torn in storage, the tears should be taped as soon as you notice them. For this reason, bales should be inspected weekly in storage. Never use bale spears to move wrapped haylage until the day you are going to feed it. It is recommended that bales be fed within a year of wrapping. Haylage that is to wet, over 60% moisture, should be feed within 3 months, and haylage that is below 40% will not ferment well and should be fed within 6 months. Most of the time when we make baleage as a rescue, it falls in the range of needing to be fed within 6 months. When done right, baleage can last a year and make excellent feed that often has 5% better quality than dry hay. When done wrong, haylage can spoil, mold, and grow organisms that will make your animals sick; use your eyes and nose to be sure that the forage your going to feed is of high quality. Don’t force animals to eat forage they don’t want.


Undersander D., “Making Baleage” UW Extension, January 2015,

Hall M., and J. Williamson, “Bale Density Effects on Baleage Quality” Penn State Extension, May 2019,  Accessed May 2019

Undersander D., and C. Saxe, “Field Drying Forage for Hay and Haylage” UW Extension Focus on Forage”, April 2013, Accessed May 2019

Upcoming Brown County ANR Program

Managing and Utilizing Summer Annuals for Hay and Pasture

Wednesday, June 19, 7:00pm-8:30pm

Cost: Free

Registration: James Morris (937-378-6716)

Location: Brown County Extension Office, 325 W. State St., Georgetown, OH 45121


  • Mike Estadt, OSU Extension Educator, Pickaway Co.
  • James Morris, OSU Extension Educator, Brown County


Recent weather has left many producers with poor forage stands and as the temperature begins to heat up, cool season grasses fall into the “summer slump”. Summer annuals such as, Sorghum × drummondii (Sudangrass) and Pearl Millet can be used to supplement poor forage stands and meet nutritional demands.

This program will provide you with the information needed to plant, maintain and utilize summer annuals successfully. See the attached flyer for more information


Emergency Forage for Planting Early to Mid-Summer

Authors: Mark Sulc and Bill Weiss

Many dairy producers are facing a critical forage shortage to feed their herds. Forage stands were damaged across Ohio this past winter, and the wet spring has further deteriorated the few stands that initially appeared they might recover from winter damage. It is now too risky to try to establish new perennial forage stands, with the warmer summer weather coming on. We should wait until August to establish perennial stands. Meanwhile, what options can we consider for growing forage this year?

Summer annual grasses can provide forage in as little as 35-40 days.


We are well past the time when cool-season species like oats, triticale, Italian ryegrass, spring barley can be planted. As we move into late May and early June, we must switch to planting warm-season species.

Corn silage is still the top choice for an annual forage in terms of overall greatest dry matter yield and nutritive value compared with the other summer annual options. Even if planted so late as to prevent grain formation, the feeding value of corn is at least equal to that of the other summer annual grasses, and forage yields are likely to be higher. However, corn silage won’t be an option for every situation, especially where forage supplies are already critically short.

Sudangrass, sorghum x sudangrass hybrids, pearl millet, and forage sorghum grow rapidly in summer and yield a total of 3.5 to 5 tons of dry matter with acceptable nutritive value. Forage sorghum can produce up to 8 tons dry matter per acre in a single cut in Ohio. For dairy cows, varieties with the brown-midrib (BMR) trait should be planted, as BMR produces forage almost as good as regular corn silage (although lower in starch) with very good fiber digestibility. Variety performance data is available at:

Soil temperatures should be at least 60-65 F before planting the sorghum species. They can be planted up to late June in northern Ohio and mid-July in central and southern Ohio. For those needing additional forage as soon as possible, sudangrass and sorghum x sudangrass, including the BMR varieties, can be ready for harvest in as little as 40 days at which time up to 2 tons/acre of dry matter is possible. Additional cuttings are possible thereafter.

In the fall, the sorghum species will have the danger of prussic acid poisoning potential after frost events. Pearl millet is essentially free of prussic acid poisoning potential. Nitrate toxicity is possible with all summer annual grasses and management steps should be taken to reduce that risk under high nitrogen conditions and if the summer becomes very dry. Ensiling reduces risk of both prussic acid and nitrate poisoning.

Teff is a warm-season grass that can be used for hay, silage, or pasture. Soils should be at least 60-65 F before planting Teff. The first crop should be ready in 40 to 50 days. It produces 3 to 4 tons of dry matter per acre over several cuttings and can tolerate both drought-stressed and waterlogged soils. More details on managing this forage can be found in a factsheet from Cornell University (

Brassica species can be planted in May to early June for late summer grazing or fall grazing by cattle or sheep. These species contain high moisture content, so they should be used for grazing only. Brassicas have very low fiber and high energy and should be treated more like a concentrate than as forage in diets. For more information on brassicas for forage, see the Penn State factsheet at

Seeding Rates and Mixtures
Plant high quality seed of a known variety, which will ensure high germination rate and avoid unpleasant surprises regarding varietal identity and crop characteristics. Table 1 outlines recommended seeding rates and dates for the different annual grasses. Mixtures of summer-annual grasses and legumes such as field peas and soybeans are marketed by some seed dealers. The legumes can increase protein content but only in the first harvest because they don’t regrow after cutting. Legumes increase the seed cost, so consider the benefit of including legumes vs. supplementing with other protein sources.

Harvesting/Grazing Options

Chopping and ensiling or wet wrapping are the best mechanical harvest alternatives for most of the summer annual grasses. Wilting is often recommended; storage and harvest costs are greater and fermentation quality can be poor with crops less than about 30% dry matter. Ideally, silage should be left undisturbed for at least two weeks to allow the forage to reach stable fermentation. If forage is needed sooner, consider daily greenchopping forage or wet wrapping individual bales for feeding until the silage is ready. Except for Teff, dry baling the summer annual grasses is a challenge. Grazing is really the only option for the brassicas because of the high moisture content.

Table 1. Guidelines for seeding various annual forages. Yield and nutritive value ranges are for silage, which vary greatly with maturity stage at harvest. Generally for hay, expect lower CP and higher NDF concentrations.

Forage crop

Seeding rate (lb/acre)

Planting dates1

Dry matter yield (ton/acre)





Corn silage

28 – 34k2

4/20 – 6/15

5.0 – 9.0

6 – 9

38 – 50

Forage sorghum

8 – 12

5/1 – 7/15

4.5 – 8.0

7 – 12

50 – 66

Sudangrass, sorghum-sudan

20 – 25

5/1 – 7/15

3.5 – 5.0

9 – 15

55 – 68

Pearl millet

15 – 20

5/1 – 7/15

3.0 – 4.5

8 – 17

56 – 67


4 – 5

5/15 – 7/15

2.0 – 4.0

13 – 16

55 – 65

1 Planting date range for Ohio. In southern Ohio, the spring dates should be in the early range, and in the fall, they can be in the later range.
2 28,000 to 34,000 seeds per acre; seed companies provide hybrid specific planting rates.

Corn vs. Soybeans in a Delayed Planting Scenario – Profit Scenarios

by: Barry Ward, Leader, Production Business Management & Director, OSU Income Tax Schools

Wet weather and planting delays throughout much of Ohio and the eastern Cornbelt have many producers thinking about switching corn acres to soybeans or the taking the prevented planting option of their Multiple Peril Crop Insurance policy. Ohio had 9% of intended corn acres planted by May 19th which is far behind the 5 year average of 62%. Farms with pre-plant nitrogen or herbicides applied for corn production may have no option to switch to soybeans. Seed availability may also limit choice for some. Other factors, such as strict adherence to a crop rotation or landlord considerations may limit farmer choice when it comes to switching from corn to soybean plantings in a given year. Farm leases may contain specifications on crop rotations or even what crops may be grown. There may also be unwritten agreements between parties that limit the possibility of growing soybeans in successive years.

Producers that don’t have these limitations may be considering the option of switching acres to soybeans and it will likely come down to expected profit. Field by field budgeting is recommended and with delayed planting the yield expectations change as we move later into the growing season. What will be the likely yields for a given farm for the two crop choices? A recent article, “Delayed Planting Effects on Corn Yield: A “Historical” Perspective” is a good starting point in evaluating potential yield loss due to late corn planting:

A recent article highlighting faculty in the College of Food, Agricultural and environmental Sciences always provides valuable insight into the possible yield swings related to late plantings of corn and soybeans:

Looking at some simple scenarios may get your budgeting process moving for your own fields. These scenarios are based on the 2019 crop enterprise budgets available online at:

Scenario 1 – Yield prospects remain unchanged, new estimated revenue based on today’s markets:

Corn – 170.2 bu/a & 4.00/bu

Returns Above Variable Costs     $293

Soybeans – 51.5 bu/a & 7.90/bu

Returns Above Variable Costs     $207

Price changes in the last 3 weeks have been favorable to corn and shows some advantage to corn with these assumptions using OSUE Enterprise Budgets.

Scenario 2 – Corn yield 13% lower (per OSU Agronomy Guide, planting date 5-22 through 5-27), soybean yields remain unchanged, new estimated revenue based on today’s markets:

Corn – 148 bu/a & 4.00/bu

Returns Above Variable Costs     $227

Soybeans – 51.5 bu/a & 7.90/bu

Returns Above Variable Costs     $207

The choice becomes closer as we see corn still outperforming soybeans (barely) in Returns Above Variable Costs.

Scenario 3 – Corn yield 13% lower (per OSU Agronomy Guide, planting date 5-22 through 5-27), soybean yields 5% lower, soybean seed costs higher due to higher seeding rate (additional 30,000 seeds per acre planted) for late planted soybeans, new estimated revenue based on today’s markets:

Corn – 148 bu/a & 4.00/bu

Returns Above Variable Costs     $227

Soybeans – 48.9 bu/a & 7.90/bu

Returns Above Variable Costs     $175

This choice again favors corn as the lower soybean yield due to late planting and additional seeding costs make the choice of corn somewhat stronger compared to Scenario 2.

The recent announcements of another round of Market Facilitation Payments and changes to Prevented Planting Coverage due to the pending Disaster Aid Bill may add further complexity to this choice.

As planting is delayed further into June the potential lower yields of both corn and soybeans due to a later planting window will tend to favor soybeans. These simplified scenarios are just examples and farmers should budget for the different yield, price and cost combinations based on their own numbers.