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September 7, 2006

Producers look to corn stalks to fill forage gap

The scramble to find forage for cattle in drought-stricken areas has producers taking a hard look at corn stalks.

Like his counterparts in other parched portions of the territory, Labette County, Kansas, Extension ag agent Keith Martin has been covered up with questions about utilizing corn stalks as forage.

“Corn stalks represent a real opportunity for cattlemen who are in need of forage,” he said, “but we need to keep several considerations in mind. If you’re baling stalks you have to be able to cover your baling costs as well as the value of the nutrients you’re removing from the field.

"If you’re buying baled stalks you have to assess their value compared to that of hay," Martin said. "And if you’re feeding stalks - either baled or standing - I’d advise you to get a forage test so you know the nutritional value of what you’re feeding as well as a nitrate test to determine the potential for toxicity problems.”

Kansas State University Research and Extension Area Beef Specialist Karl Harborth seconded Martin’s advice on forage testing.

“Test what you’ve got - it’ll save you money because you’ll know how you need to supplement cattle consuming stalks,” he said. “Generally, you’re going to need to supplement a source of protein, possibly an energy supplement and provide a good trace mineral mix that includes vitamin A. You can get general estimates on the quality of stalks but it can be highly variable so a forage test is a pretty inexpensive way to keep from either over-supplementing or under-supplementing your cattle.”

Kansas State University rates early-grazed corn stover in the ballpark of 6.5 percent crude protein and 52 percent TDN. Those figures drop to 3.5 percent crude protein and 44 percent TDN later in the grazing season and baled stover is estimated at 5.2 percent protein and 49 percent TDN.

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