OSU Expert: Corn Stalks Are An Inexpensive Feed Source

Corn field after harvest. (Photo: Thinkstock)

WOOSTER, Ohio – Livestock producers looking for a relatively easy and inexpensive feed source can turn to harvested cornfields for the answer.

The residue left on the field after harvesting corn can be used to meet the nutrient needs of ruminant livestock in early to mid-gestation, according to a forage expert from Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. 

As the corn harvest continues, producers shouldn’t overlook corn stalks as a viable feed resource, said Rory Lewandowski, agriculture and natural resources educator for the college's outreach arm, Ohio State University Extension.

“After the combine goes through the field, the residue that is left includes the stalk, husks, leaves, corn kernels and cobs,” he said. “Studies have shown there can be about a bushel of corn grain per acre that could be out there on these fields.

 “This is a viable resource that is available and can be utilized by livestock. Take advantage of it -- don't overlook corn stalks as a viable and valuable feed resource.”

Generally, corn residue is comprised of 49 percent stalks, 27 percent leaves and 12 percent each of husks and cobs, according to a 2004 University of Nebraska report on corn stalk grazing, Lewandowski said.

“Livestock typically will eat any corn grain first,” he said. “Then, livestock typically will eat the plant leaves and husks, with the residual cobs and stalks typically eaten last.”

Producers can use solar-powered portable fencing systems to contain livestock on a corn field with little effort, Lewandowski said.

“In addition to the nutritional benefit corn residue grazing can allow livestock, that grazing can also provide a break for perennial grass pastures and allow those grass plants to build up carbohydrate reserves during the fall period,” he said.


Tracy Turner
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Rory Lewandowski