Baled Cornstalks

When you can't graze cornstalks, bale them.

Grazing the aftermath of a corn harvest will forever be the best way to utilize cornstalks; however, not all acres are convenient to graze. This, combined with low hay supplies, has many cattlemen asking questions about using baled cornstalks for cattle feed.

Calculate the added costs of baling cornstalks.

Baling cornstalks can provide an alternative to grazing, but additional costs exist. Additional costs associated with baling cornstalks include machinery, fuel, labor, and nutrient removal costs. It is important to realize and apply these costs to the cornstalk bale to accurately determine the cost of the feedstuff. Even with these additional costs, many times baling cornstalks still is more economical than purchasing other feeds. Elevated hay prices may make using cornstalks attractive.


    Supplement stalks

    Baled cornstalks are normally 3-5% CP and 45-54% TDN. Because variability is high, it is important to sample and test for nutrient analysis. Supplementation is necessary to balance rations using baled cornstalks. Even with supplementation costs, feeding baled cornstalks can be an economic alternative to feeding hay.

    Corn co-products such as CGF (Corn Gluten Feed) and DDGS (Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles) work well for supplementing cornstalks. Economic feasibility of wintering cows on diets containing cornstalks hinges on having other quality, nutrient dense feedstuffs to include into a balanced ration.

    Waste is an issue with feeding cornstalk bales. The best strategies to limit waste include bale processing and feeding a Total Mixed Ration (TMR). However, bale processing and use of a TMR feeding system adds equipment costs to an operation. TMR rations

    Size matters.

    Using cornstalks can be a cost-saving advantage to high priced hay. Cornstalks supplemented with co-products can be utilized by both large and small producers. Smaller producers with less than 50 head need to be willing to bucket feed the co-product, because equipment costs would not be justifiable at this number of cows. If they are not willing to bucket feed, then hay may be the cheapest strategy. For producers running over 100 cows, the added cost of equipment is more justifiable with the feed savings of grinding and feeding a TMR. Size of operation and labor situation does have an impact on the economic feasibility of winter feeding strategies.

    Tips for feeding cornstalk bales.

    • Sample and send off for nutrient analysis
    • Not an equal substitute for hay. Must be supplemented. Changes to mineral supplementation may be necessary.
    • Process bales to reduce particle size. This will reduce feed refusal and waste.
    • If you cannot process bales, budget for the added waste. Use leftovers of the bale for bedding.
    • Mix with wet co-products. Adds to palatability and decreases ration sort. A target diet moisture of 50% reduces sorting of the ration.

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