Silage and crop insurance

By Matt Reese

Tom Schmitmeyer looks over the corn crop growing on his Mercer County farm as storm clouds darken the skies but once again fail to drop any rain until they move a couple of miles away. The farm sits on the fringe of the most drought stricken parts of the state.

Tom Schmitmeyer found some respectable ears in his drought-stricken corn, but they were more the exception than the rule.

Like many farms in the area, much of Schmitmeyer’s crop is grown to feed his livestock. The 100 cows he is milking need fed whether his silage crop yields well or not. In his case, Schmitmeyer still has hay and silage reserves from last year and plans on chopping more than usual this year to make sure his cows have plenty of feed.

“I can usually get by with about 60 acres of corn silage, but I may need to double acreage this year,” he said. “The hay crop has yielded about half of what we normally get, but I still have hay left from last year.”

Larger farms in the area, and around the state, however, may find themselves in tough situations.

“Some guys need all of their acreage to meet their feeding needs for livestock in a normal year and now we’re talking about having to double that amount this year,” said Ryan Fennig, a crop insurance agent with Fennig-Homan Agribusiness in Celina.

As the corn crop was withering away underneath the sun in some of the worst areas of Mercer and Darke County, there were plenty of questions about silage corn and insurance coverage. Crop insurance is based upon the grain yield of the crop, not the silage tonnage, so in cases where insurance payments may apply, it is very important that test strips are left to mature so the appraiser can get an accurate handle on the yield. For every 10 or 12 acres, four to six rows of corn the whole length of the field need to be left for the appraisal.

“If we’re doing silage appraisals or claims, you must first notify the agency that you are going to be chopping or you are going to have a passible claim. We have to get the paperwork process started. It is more important this year than ever that you do this in a timely manner because we are going to be busy. You are going to have to chop two to three times more acres to get the same amount of feed as in the past and that means we have to appraise two to three times more acres than in the past,” Fennig said. “Leave a strip the whole length of the field so that we can get an accurate appraisal. The crops will be appraised closer to maturity. Once corn reaches the milk stage, we feel we can more accurately appraise. If the corn has not put an ear on, we can appraise that immediately. If there is an ear present and it did pollinate, we need to wait until normal milk stage. If you know you’re going to be chopping silage, let us know now. You do not have to wait until two days before you chop. Please turn in your claim as early as you can.”

Corn and soybeans that will be harvested normally can be assessed closer to harvest.

“With mowing or chopping soybeans, we have to wait until the pods are filled to get an accurate appraisal so need to be left there as well. Without that, we have to use a stand count and many stands are not bad out there. If the yield of the crop can be appraised at the time of harvest, no check strips would be needed,” Fennig said. “Make sure you notify your agent or an adjuster before you do anything different than a normal harvest. You cannot destroy a crop without consent from an adjuster. We are not going to be able to pay a claim on that crop without an appraisal from an adjuster.”

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