Many beef cow-calf and dairy producers overlook one of the most economical feed sources that’s readily available.
Corn stover, the material left on the surface after grain harvest, was once eyed as a good source for cellulosic ethanol, but technology is yet to make it economical, at least in Michigan.
However, that corn residue has value and can be economically grazed or mechanically harvested, according to Kevin Gould, Michigan State University Livestock Extension educator.
“When hay is in short supply or high-priced, corn stover quickly becomes an economical beef cow feed,” he says. “It’s a good way to cut back the cost of winter feed.”
It’s not just for beef operations, though. Leroy Schafer, who is milking 120 head and farming 220 acres of corn and soybeans in Westphalia, is using it in multiple ways: in heifer feed to cut corn silage and as bedding. “We use it as a sub-base below the straw; it’s a little more absorbent. It stretches our straw supply.”
• Corn stover can be grazed or mechanically harvested.
• Material can be used as feed when hay is scarce.
• Aim to harvest stover below 25% moisture to bar spoilage.
Schafer, a sixth-generation farmer, says his custom combine has knife rolls under the corn head to chop and bust loose the stover. “We didn’t mow it. We picked up what was loose with two large square balers. We don’t harvest a lot of corn residue, but if we did, we’d look into having it cut and windrowed. It would be a lot easier on the equipment.”
To prevent mold and spoilage, havesting corn stover at the right moisture level is critical. “Weather conditions and a late harvest can prevent farmers from harvesting stover,” Gould says. “Don’t bank on getting the stalks every year. Stover moisture generally runs 8% to 10% higher than the corn grain. Ideally, you want the stover below 25% moisture, so select fields that dry out faster and are harvested earlier in the season.”
DUAL PURPOSE: Dairy farmer Leroy Schafer is harvesting, baling and storing corn stover to use as a feed supplement and as bedding.
This article published in the February, 2012 edition of MICHIGAN FARMER.