What is the Value of a Standing Corn Crop for Silage?

(EC1343, Revised August 2021)

This worksheet goes through the steps needed to calculate the value of a corn crop to be harvested for silage. The net value per acre assumes the buyer incurs harvesting and hauling cost.

Lead Author
Lead Author:
Revised by Andy Swenson • Farm and Family Resource Management Specialist, NDSU Extension Service
Other Authors

Revised by Zac Carlson, Beef Cattle Specialist and Ron Haugen; Farm Management Specialist, NDSU Extension. This publication was originally authored by Dwight Aakre, retired Farm Management Specialist, NDSU Extension.

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Corn for silage sometimes is sold standing in the field, and farmers frequently ask how to determine a fair price for the standing crop. The following provides some guidelines for estimating the value of a standing corn crop.

To calculate the value of a corn crop to be harvested for silage, download the Corn Silage Decision Tool spreadsheet. It includes features for adjusting the corn silage price and estimating yield calculations. To make the calculations by hand, download the PDF file of this publication.

The value of the standing corn crop depends upon several variables, including yield, price of substitute feed crops, and harvesting and hauling costs. The figure on line 5 in the above examples indicates the maximum amount the buyer could afford to pay. The buyer should discount the computed price by the estimated spoilage. With this information, the parties would negotiate the price.

If you have all-risk crop insurance on your corn crop, you should check with your insurance agent before you begin chopping to determine how selling the standing corn crop will affect yield history and insurance payments if the situation warrants.

Failure to notify your insurance agent may result in forfeiture of any potential indemnity payment. If you have a potential insurance claim, your insurance company likely will require you to leave a number of rows unharvested at specified intervals across the field to be used for final appraisal. Also, selling unharvested corn results in a loss of beneficial interest prior to harvest. This means you will not be eligible for any potential loan deficiency payment.

Calculating the Value Per Ton of Corn Silage

If shelled corn containing 13% moisture is priced locally at $5.50 per bushel and grass hay containing 10% moisture is priced at $90 per ton, their value per pound of dry matter is computed as follows:

Corn: 56 lbs. x 0.87 = 48.72 lbs. dry matter. $5.50 divided by 48.72 equals 0.1129 or 11.29 cents per pound of dry matter
Hay: 2,000 lbs. x 0.90 = 1,800 lbs. of dry matter. $90 divided by 1,800 equals 0.0500 or 5 cents per pound of dry matter

If silage contains 35% dry matter, there are 700 pounds of dry matter per ton, or the equivalent of 350 pounds of shelled corn and 350 pounds of grass hay. Mature, high-yielding grain corn should contain 50% grain by dry-matter weight.

350 lbs. of corn equivalent @ $0.1129 = $39.52
350 lbs. of hay equivalent @ $0.05 = $17.50
1,300 lbs. of water @ $0.00 - $0.00
Total value: $57.02 per ton (2,000 lbs.) of silage containing 35% dry matter

The above example is typical of good-quality mature corn made into silage. However, immature (early frost) or drought-impacted corn salvaged for silage contains much less grain relative to stalk and leaf material. Corn in the hard dough stage may be only 25% grain by dry-matter weight. In that case, the value would be computed as follows:

175 lbs. of corn equivalent @ $0.1129 = $19.76
525 lbs. of hay equivalent @ $0.05 = $26.25
1,300 lbs. of water @ $0.00 - $0.00
Total value: $46.01 per ton (2,000 lbs.) of immature, drought-stressed corn silage containing 35% dry matter

Very immature corn with no grain content would be valued based on hay equivalent value only.

0 lbs. of corn equivalent @ $0.1129 = $0.00
700 lbs. of hay equivalent @ $0.05 = $35.00
1,300 lbs. of water @ $0.00 - $0.00
Total value: $35.00 per ton (2,000 lbs.) of corn silage with 0% grain content containing 35% dry matter