Carl Ault eliminates a field pass and harvests more corn stover by windrowing it while harvesting grain.
“It slows me down quite a little bit, but I’m accomplishing two complete jobs when I’m doing it,” says Carl Ault.
This Rochester, IN, farmer combines corn and windrows stover at the same time using a Cornrower combine-head attachment. In 2012, he chopped 400 acres of stalklage and baled 320 acres of bedding from windrows created by the new machine.
Invented by Jim Straeter of New Holland Rochester, the Cornrower was first covered in Hay & Forage Grower last February. It mounts on a New Holland 99C chopping corn head and is compatible with New Holland CR combines with high-speed header drives. It also fits a Case IH chopping head, and the entire head can mount on other combine brands, says Straeter.
Besides eliminating a field pass, it keeps the stover off the ground until it’s deposited in the windrow, minimizing soil contamination. The windrow is formed in the center behind the head, then the husks and cobs fall on top of it as they leave the rear of the combine. The unit can be adjusted to collect all the stover or leave some of it in the field.
Straeter built it mostly as an alternative to raking or shredding for livestock producers who use stover for bedding or feed. But he also sees it as a good fit for farmers selling baled stover to cellulosic ethanol plants.
Ault tested the Cornrower for Straeter the past three years as the inventor worked to make it market ready. The crop-and-livestock producer used eight-row models the first two years and a 12-row prototype last fall.
“I think it’s going to be the way of the future, especially for the livestock guy,” he says. “I don’t think you’re ever going to get the grain farmer to slow down enough to get the job done.”
He uses a ryegrass cover crop aerially seeded into standing corn, so he wants to harvest most of the available stover. He previously used a shredder that formed windrows that were baled for bedding, but it was slow, too, and didn’t capture enough stover.
With a Cornrower, he harvests almost twice as much stover as before. Last year, his irrigated cornfields yielded up to 3.25 tons of stover dry matter per acre.
He initially used the fodder just for bedding, but after the first year decided to ensile some of it and feed it as a lower-cost ingredient in his beef finishing ration. To improve its feed value, he applied hydrated lime to the windrows, working with representatives from ADM and Monsanto.
Last year he applied 300-400 lbs/acre of hydrated lime with a fertilizer spreader, then followed with 200 gallons/acre of water using a sprayer modified to direct it onto the windrows. The water controlled dust, a big problem the first year, and improved fermentation.
Harvested when the grain was above 25% moisture and the stalks were still green, last fall’s stalklage tests 56-60% TDN, Ault reports. His son, Aaron, calculates the total cost at $34/ton vs. the current corn silage price of about $75/ton.
Straeter sees ensiled, lime-treated stover as potentially a “huge deal” for his invention.
“I think that’s going to be, hands down, the biggest initial adoption of the Cornrower,” he says.
That’s because stover must be at least 55% moisture for good fermentation, and Cornrower windrows can be chopped right behind the combine but conventionally harvested stover can’t. Also, he says, the windrows are free of rocks that can raise havoc with forage harvesters.
The machine will soon be available from New Holland dealers. For more information, call Straeter at 574-223-2714 or visit newhollandrochester.com.