Forage Options with Damaged Corn

Forage Options with Damaged Corn

Spotty rains and drought conditions in some areas of the state as well as hail and wind damage are leading growers to seek alternative uses for rainfed corn fields. Fortunately, there are several forage alternatives.

The most common salvage operation for corn damaged by hail, wind, drought, or other calamities is to chop it for silage.  Don't be in a hurry, though.  Standing corn currently could be over 80% moisture.  The easiest and maybe the best way to lower moisture content is simply wait until some stalks start to turn brown. Waiting also allows surviving corn to continue to add tonnage.

If waiting isn't desirable, reduce moisture by windrowing the crop and allowing it to wilt one-half to one full day before chopping. You also could mix grain or chopped hay with freshly chopped corn to lower the moisture content.  It takes quite a bit of material for mixing though – about 7 bushels of grain or 350 pounds of hay to lower each ton of silage from 80% to 70% moisture. 

Another option is to windrow the corn so it can dry completely and then bale it as hay.  Be sure to test it for nitrates before feeding.

Grazing might be the easiest way to use damaged corn, and this is a good way to extend your grazing season. You might even plant some sorghum-sudangrass or oats and turnips between rows to grow more forage for grazing if previous herbicide use will allow it and you can wait until late fall before grazing. 

Be sure to introduce livestock slowly to this new forage by feeding them before them into the field to reduce the chance of digestive problems. Also, strip graze the field to reduce trampling losses and get more grazing from the corn.