Fenceline: July 12, 2012
Meadowlark Extension Agent
Livestock & Natural Resources
Well, the rains are eluding us! Farmers and ranchers have some serious decisions to be making. Some of the corn is hanging on, other fields are not going to make it and have started dying.
Mike Brouk, KSU dairy specialist, is still waiting for a rain. His theory is as long as the corn leaves are still unrolling at night, and the rain comes soon, there might be a little ear production.
I’ve taken quite a few phone calls on what to do with failed corn. Those set up to make corn silage just need to consider the timing for the moisture, and remember to cut high because of the nitrates in the lower part of the stalk.
Of course, before feeding any suspected droughty feed, you should test for nitrates. Just take the sample into the nearest extension office. Cow-calf producers who do not normally make silage have other decisions to make.
Grazing this failed corn crop can be extremely dangerous because of the high nitrates. I’ve had some ask about baling the corn. This can be very hard on your equipment. There can be a lot of wasted forage when fed. the cows will eat the leaves and the rest will be wasted.
The feed value of drought stricken corn is normally 75-95 percent of normal silage when properly ensiled. There will be more carbohydrate in the stalk than normal, which compensates for the lack of grain. The feeding value can be quite variable depending on the timing and the amount of stress the plant has been through. The proper moisture content is really important to good ensiling. Plants usually look drier than they really are, due to wet stalks. Allow the forage to dry down to 65-70 percent moisture if possible. Crude protein in drought stressed corn silage is usually higher than normal. it’s usually 10-11 percent with normal silage at 7-8 percent.
Making silage of drought stressed corn will result in higher field and handling losses. The grain, if any, will be softer and dustier. Weather damaged feeds can be successfully used for feeding cattle. the key is to have the feed tested for nutritional content and potential toxins.
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