Chopping or baling soybeans can help fill forage needs. That's the message from the University of Illinois' Mike Hutjens who has posted a 7-minute video discussion on the subject. You can find it and some related information at:

Hutjens says the best time to chop would be when soybeans are in the R3 stage of development . . . just beginning to develop pods. At that stage, one of the top four nodes of the plant with a fully developed leaf has a 3/16-inch pod.

He recommends wilting to between 35 and 45 percent dry matter . . . on the drier side for upright silos . . . on the wetter side for bags and bunkers. Set choppers for a 3/8-inch theoretical length of cut. Use an inoculant similar to what you would use for hay silage.

The yield may be in the range of 1 to 2 tons (as fed) per acre.

At the R3 stage, you might expect forage with 18 percent protein, 46 percent NDF and 32 percent ADF. At the R5 stage (beginning to make seed), protein would be about the same, but NDF would be more like 46 and ADF about 34.

At the R7 stage (beginning maturity), NDF might drop to 40 percent because there would be more seed and ADF might drop to 29 or so.

There will be a lot of moisture in the soybean plants, and it may be a challenge to get them dry enough to bale. You may need to use a propionic acid preservative, Hutjens cautions.

He urges people to check on any herbicides and insecticides that may have been applied to the soybeans. Make sure there is no risk of toxicity or contamination of milk or meat.

Hutjens says a potential seed yield of 20 bushels per acre may be the chop/combine break point. At $15 per bushel, 20 bushels of seed is $300. If hay is worth $200 per ton and you get 1-1/2 tons of dry matter per acre, the forage also would be worth $300. ars or go directly to the enrollment page.