UNL: Corn stalks less valuable as feed source

Corn stalks are the main winter feed resource for many cattle producers in the Midwest.  But increasingly, their value is being questioned.

A University of Nebraska report points out that both stalks and cattle have changed considerably in the past 20 years.  For starters, today’s modern combines are leaving much less grain in the field.  Growers used to estimate that four percent of the grain would be left in the field.  Today, the reports says, the amount is probably half that.  Less grain means cows need to be supplemented earlier so they don’t go out of condition.  It also may lower the eventual production capacity of the calves.

Today’s stalks may also be less nutritious.  Modern hybrids draw more nutrients out of the stalk and into the kernel.  UNL says genetic modifications for insect resistance and reduced lodging have produced stalks that may be less palatable and provide fewer digestible nutrients.

On the other side, today’s cows are larger and need more forage and often more supplementation than yesterday’s smaller cows. Bottom line—a quarter section of stalks won’t carry as many cows as it once did.  Even when stocking adjustments are made, if supplements aren’t also adjusted accordingly, cow performance may suffer.

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