How Much Nutrition is in Those Baled Corn Stalks?

How Much Nutrition is in Those Baled Corn Stalks?

Nov. 24, 2015
Field of round bales of corn stalks
Baled corn stalks in Saunders County. (Photo by Lisa Jasa)

Corn stalk bales can provide much needed feed over the winter. To use them most effectively, you'll want to find out what they have to offer nutritionally.

Sample and test your bales as soon as possible so when snow gets deep or other feeds run out you will already know how to best feed your corn stalk bales.

Begin by testing the bales for protein and energy.  You may be surprised at how variable the protein and energy content can be in corn stalk bales. I’ve seen protein as low as 3% and as high as 7%. Dry pregnant cows need 7-8% protein in their diet so high protein bales will need only a little protein to adequately care for the cows; however bales with 3% protein will need quite a bit of supplement to keep cows in good condition.

Use a protein supplement that is nearly all natural and is mostly rumen degradable. Maintenance-level forage diets need degradable protein for the rumen microbes. Remember that urea and other non-protein nitrogen sources aren’t used as well.

Many bales have pretty good TDN levels, nearly 60%. Cows fed these bales should do very well up until calving with just corn stalk bales and adequate protein supplement. However, stalks rained on before baling can be below 50% TDN. Cows fed these lower quality bales will need some extra energy, too. If your bales came from stressed stalks, like from drought or hail, also get a nitrate test to be sure they are safe.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist