Corn for Grain
Insight 23


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A range of high quality forages and concentrates can be harvested from the hybrid corn plant. This technical bulletin outlines corn options, their cost and benefits.


Most farmers are aware that hybrid corn can be harvested as silage or grain. There are in fact a range of different products that can be made from the corn (maize) plant (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Maize product options


Corn grain has the highest level of starch and the highest feed value but also has the lowest yield. Corn silage provides the highest level of fibre and the lowest feed value but has the highest yield (Figure 2). For more information on maize cutting height see Pioneer Technical Insight here.

Figure 2: Corn plant composition and yield

The relative drymatter and energy yield and energy density of the corn options are shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Corn options relative yield and feed value*

 Corn silageEarlageHigh moisture cornDried grain

Relative drymatter yield

(tDM/ha at feeding time**)

100% 70% 52%


Relative energy yield
at feeding time**)

100% 83% 65%


Relative energy density

100% 119% 126%


*Calculated according to Mahlkow 02 and German feed tables. Assumes 6% fermentation losses for all ensiled feeds and 3% maize grain drying losses.

Table 2: Pros and cons of high energy maize options


The approximate cost per unit of drymatter and per unit of energy is shown in Table 3. Because it delivers the highest yields, maize silage has the lowest cost per unit of drymatter and energy.

Table 3: Estimated cost for a range of maize products and a user who grows and feeds their own crop

 Maize silageEarlageHigh moisture cornDry grain
Yield (tDM/ha)    22.5 15.8 11.7 11.7
Energy Density (MJME/kgDM)  10.8 12.8   13.6 13.6
Energy yield (as feed) (GJM/ha) 228  190  150 154
Maize growing cost1 ($ha) 2,335 2,125 2,125 2,125
Maize harvesting cost2 ($ha) 1,495 1,165 724 649
Feeding out cost3 (@$16/Tdm) ($/ha) 338  237  176 57
Drying and processing4 ($/ha)     468 1,065
Total cost ($/ha fed)
4,168 3,526 3,493 3,896
Drymatter cost (c/kgDM) 18.5 22.4 29.9 33.3
Energy cost (c/MJME) 1.72 1.75 2.20 2.45


1Maize silage cost based on Pioneer Maize Silage catalogue 2016/17. All others based on Pioneer Maize Grain Catalogue 2016/17.

2Maize silage cost based on Pioneer Maize Silage catalogue 2016/17. Earlage assumes harvest costs of $833/ha + bagging $158/ha ($10/tDM) + $182/ha Pioneer® brand 11C33 inoculant. HMC assumes harvest cost of $380/ha + $117/ha bagging + $94/ha Pioneer® brand 11C33 inoculant + $137/ha cartage. Dried maize = $380/ha combine +$269/ha carting.

3Assumes that the cost of grain and silage feed-out is equal.

 HMC processing cost $468/ha. Dry grain processing cost $468/ha + $597/ha for drying ($40/ wet tonne).

Cost of storing maize feeds

Storing maize for a season is a very viable option given current low interest rates. Maize silage that has been stored for a year will still be cheaper than earlage, high moisture corn or dry grain harvested in the current season (Table 4).

Table 4: Cost of storing maize feeds for a season calculated at 6% interest

 Maize silageEarlage High moisture cornDry grain
Harvest time    
Drymatter cost (c/kgDM) 18.5   22.4 29.9 33.3
 Energy cost (c/MJME) 1.72 1.75 2.20 2.45
After one year    
Drymatter cost (c/kgDM) 19.6 23.7 31.6 35.3
Energy cost (c/MJME) 1.82 1.85 2.33 2.60

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Revised: March 2017