Corn Stover - An Economical Feed?

US - Corn stover, the leaves and stalks left on fields after the grain is harvested, holds great potential as an economical feed for livestock, attendees of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 93rd Annual Meeting learned at a seminar hosted by Monsanto.
calendar icon 12 January 2012
clock icon 2 minute read

Steve Peterson, biofuels product manager at Monsanto, said the company is studying techniques for managing corn stover so that it can be effectively used to feed beef and dairy cattle.

“Properly done, corn stover harvests increase the value of an acre of corn,” Mr Peterson said. But he cautioned that the harvest window for stover is narrow and improper harvesting techniques can damage fields.

Fibrous corn stover is “tough stuff,” Mr Peterson explained. Early attempts to use hay baling equipment for stover met with failure. Monsanto is working with farm equipment manufacturers, including John Deere, to test modified versions of both square and round hay balers.

“Square bales have worked great, both for storage and for ease of feeding livestock,” Mr Peterson said. But he cautioned that farmers must get stover bales under cover quickly, as they “soak up water like a sponge.”

Chopping corn stover and storing it in silage bags or on the ground in a bunker silo also works well, according to Mr Peterson. Research to date indicates an average harvest of about three tons per acre when the moisture level of the stover is between 25 per cent and 30 per cent.

The nutrient content of harvested corn stover varies greatly, depending on moisture content and other factors. It is generally high in phosphorus and potassium, serves as a rumen buffer and is very digestible, according to Mr Peterson.

“Cattle like it – it’s very palatable,” Mr Peterson concluded.

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