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Missouri Mule

Feeding cornstalk bales to cows

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Here in our part of the world not many guys feed cornstalks to cows including us so excuse my ignorance.  So we had a hair brain idea to bale up some yesterday. I rolled up 30 some odd bales just for shi$& and grins. I just slipped in with brush hog and cut them and went behind with rake and baler. Worked good for me. 

Anyway, I know nitrates are a very real thing. However my plan is to try to feed 60 head of cows free choice stalks one bale unrolled at a time and still feed dry hay at the same time. I don't even know if my plan will work but at the very least it's good bedding for calves. So if I stick to this plan do i really need to worry anout having this stuff tested? I really don't care about protein or anything else because I'm not trying to just feed the stuff, I just don't want any dead critters. Thanks in advance 

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I have fed them in the past and will be feeding them this year. You will be fine.  My cows will be wintered on stalks then transitioned over to grass hay closer to calving. I feed a little grain along with them.

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2 hours ago, new guy said:

I have fed them in the past and will be feeding them this year. You will be fine.  My cows will be wintered on stalks then transitioned over to grass hay closer to calving. I feed a little grain along with them.

Yah I forgot to add that we try to feed 3-5lbs of grain daily in the winter depending on weather and condition of cows. Every other day while they are on grass. 

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You will be fine rolling a bale out for them. People used to talk about injecting them with lick rub protein and that was all the cows got most of the winter. We were going to bale some but the white stuff came along and stopped that plan.

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We graze corn stalks every year. Never had a nitrate problem but we are on irrigated ground so the chance for nitrates is less. Was your corn stressed this year?  Tests are cheap, it would be cheap insurance. 

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3 minutes ago, ZachGrant said:

We graze corn stalks every year. Never had a nitrate problem but we are on irrigated ground so the chance for nitrates is less. Was your corn stressed this year?  Tests are cheap, it would be cheap insurance. 

Well... I live in Missouri and plant sandy gravely creek bottoms that are narrower than some guys planters and you don't have to worry about walking to the other end if needed. It rained and rained then it didn't rain. A real crop farmer would starve to death on these little creek bottoms. I'd say it's stressed out on a good year🤔  In all honesty it was a average year making an average crop. It wasn't stressed as far as I can tell. 

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Grazing corn ground is common practice here. As for baled stalks, it can be good feed, or poor bedding. It depends on how they are put up. We used to raise Purebred Simmental and would calve in June so our nutritional needs weren't as great as some here who calved in Feb and March. Back to baling stalks... 20 years ago, we were the first in the area to do it. Remember, a dry mature corn stalk has as much food value as straw. In other words .. none. The food value is in the husks and leaves. The first year, we slid the spreader back on the combine and just let the husks, etc. just drop behind the combine in between two rows. We hired a guy to come bale it. It made good feed but broke teeth on the baler pickup. We were one of the stops on the Iowa State field day. The next year a lot of guys tried it. That year, our baler guy bought a chopper attachment (he started custom baling stalks) for his baler. We still just dumped the stover in between the middle two rows and he baled that and chopped the stalks in those two rows. That worked ok because it chopped the stalks, but the chopper shook the he** out of the baler and after one season of custom work the baler was junk. He retired a few years later and we were having a hard time finding anyone to bale it, plus our renter became more and more a pain when we kept asking him to pull the spreader off so we could bale a 100 bales. Still good feed, but couldn't get it put up right. Then it got to where the only people we could get were guys that came in with a flail chopper and a rake. We ended up with more dirt and trash than usable feed. It became more like bedding than feed.  Couple years later we sold the cows.

So, to answer your question...if it is done right, it is good feed, done wrong, and it isn't worth the time to do it.  Just depends on what you think of your cows.

As an aside, Hillco (watch it on youtube) makes a collector that allows you to pull a chopper and a automated baler behind a combine. It would take a lot of bales to pay for it, but it would make excellent winter cow feed as you get only husks and grain that comes out the back. If I had a lot of cows I would look into it. 

Part of the reason baling for feed went downhill in our area is because there was a processing plant built that was taking corn stalks and turning it into pelleted fuel. They wanted volume not quality so everybody who had a baler was becoming a custom baler. Good idea, but never caught on and the company went belly up. 

When we first started doing it, we were considering taking a couple of the good stover bales and working with the local feed mill to run them through their grinder and cube it using their pellet mill but it was going to cost more than the return, but there would have been zero waste. Iowa State tried it as well, and found the same thing. Good stuff, just not cost effective.

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We feed about 400 to 500 corn stalk bales per year, we tip them on end put about 5 gal of molasses on them, let it soak in good for a couple days and then run them through a tub grinder with the rest of our hay.  the cows clean everything right up, they work great if put up dry too many people in my area dry and hurry the process of baling and the bales aren't near as good, they are very tough grinding if put up too wet.

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Thanks guys. I don't have a tub grinder but one day I would love to pick up a used one. So for now we will see how it works just unrolling. More like exploding a ball of stalks than unrolling. I told my buddy we should just get going about 30mph in the bale bed truck and let em touch down. My biggest question or concern was nitrate poisoning. It sounds like what I assumed, in my low scale of feeding it isn't a issue. How long do some of you that cut stalks let them dry before baling? I didnt wait too long after chopping before taking and baling. The stalks were fairly dry but when we got into some areas where there was some shade you could feel the moisture in them. I wondered if they would mold or what. This is a learning curve for me and trial and error. I guess i thought it would be neat to try. 

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