Test Cornstalk Bales Before Feeding Them To Cattle

Besides testing for nitrates, you also should check for protein and energy content.

Published on: Nov 16, 2012

Cornstalk bales will provide much needed winter feed this fall and winter. Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln forage specialist, offers the following suggestions for feeding them effectively.

Before feeding those bales, let's first find out what they have to offer nutritionally.  Sample Before offering them to your cattle, test 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.

"Test the cornstalk bales for nitrates to make sure to feed them safely," Anderson says. "And while you're at it, also test them for protein and energy. I've seen test results from a number of cornstalk bales. You may be surprised at how variable the protein and energy content were in these bales. "I've seen protein as low as 3% and as high as 7%."

Test Cornstalk Bales Before Feeding Them To Cattle
Test Cornstalk Bales Before Feeding Them To Cattle

Since dry pregnant cows need 7 to 8% protein in their diet, those high protein bales will need only a little protein to adequately care for the cows, he says. But those 3% bales 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, he recommends. Maintenance-level forage diets need degradable protein for the rumen microbes, but the urea and other non-protein nitrogen sources aren't used as well.

Most bales had pretty good TDN (total digestible nutrient) levels, often close to 60%. Cows fed these bales should do very well up until calving with just corn stalk bales and adequate protein supplement, according to Anderson. However, some stalks were rained on before baling and were below 50% TDN. Cows fed these lower quality bales will need some extra energy, too.