While wind, hail, floods and drought have destroyed the potential for corn harvest in some fields this season, forage production may offer a viable option in salvaging the value of what's left, says University of Nebraska extension forage specialist Bruce Anderson.
Grazing may be the simplest option for utilizing the downed corn, he says. “If you have more ruined corn than cattle to consume it, build a fence around the entire field as you would when grazing stalks in winter. Another option would be to find more cattle to graze the corn. Yearlings easily gain 1.5-2 lbs/day on corn forage, usually more. This can produce some pretty cheap gain for feedlot cattle compared to feeding grain or byproducts.”
Strip grazing can produce even better results. Anderson notes that strip grazing doesn't need to be complicated or take much additional time. To get started, make water accessible at one end of the field and string an electric hot wire across the field so animals can graze only a couple days' supply of corn. But first drive over the path on which you want to string the wire, using a tractor, ATV or pickup to knock down standing corn and make it easier for animals to see it. “You'll get two to three times as many animal days of grazing as you would if cattle were given access to the entire field.”
If the corn is still standing, it can be chopped for silage or even cut and baled as hay. “Getting it dry enough for hay might be difficult,” says Anderson. “Tall plants are difficult to mow, stalks need to be run through a conditioner, and windrows need a long time to dry. Remaining ears are especially hard to dry, so they tend to spoil inside the bale.”
Before beginning any type of harvest, check with your insurance agent and local Farm Service Agency office to make sure you don’t disqualify yourself from any supplemental payments.