Can producers save money by baling corn stalks for winter feed? It depends on local feed supplies and a producer’s ability to cut costs or feed efficiently, says University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist Bruce Anderson.

Anderson listed costs incurred by baling corn stalks, including what it would take to replace nutrients removed, he says. Using this fall’s fertilizer prices, he figures stalks contain about $10-12/ton worth of nitrogen, phosphate, sulfur, and lime.

Baling stalks can also reduce soil organic matter, increase erosion risk, and increase soil water evaporation, he adds. Nebraska research shows that dryland corn yield declines about 2 bu for each ton of residue removed; irrigation costs increase similarly to maintain corn yield. That’s another $10-12/ton.

The wear and tear on harvesting equipment, plus labor, averages $20-25/ton, making the total stalk-baling cost at $45-50/ton.

“So, what are corn stalks worth as a feed?” he asks. “One rule of thumb suggests the dollar feeding value is just a bit higher than straw. But feed value of stalks varies greatly, and cattle tend to waste more of it. If you bale the entire field, you may only have 3-4% protein and less than 50% TDN.

“Harvest just the tailings in the two or three rows behind the combine, and TDN increases to the lower 50s and protein to about 5%. But you should test to make sure.”

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