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Corn Stover as Feed for Cattle

Richard S. Adams, Penn State professor of Dairy Science 
814-863-3917

Farmers short on forage or cash should consider feeding corn stover (fodder minus the ears) as part of the forage ration for their cattle, especially young stock and dry cows. It is comparable in energy content to average hay on a dry matter basis.

The biggest drawback in feeding corn stover is its physical nature. Ensiling while it is still green or mixing dry material with higher moisture hay-crop forage after killing frosts may make it more acceptable to cattle. It also may be baled, particularly as large packaged bales, for self-feeding. Liquid anhydrous ammonia may be applied to increase its protein equivalent content and help in preservation. Usually 20-35 lb of liquid anhydrous ammonia may be applied per ton of dry stover via bale injectors or equipment on the baler. This should increase the protein content of stover to about 10-14% on a dry matter basis.

Because stover is relatively devoid of vitamins A and E it is recommended that the amounts fed be limited to about 20% of the normal forage dry matter fed to milk cows. Stover may provide up to 1/3 of the forage dry matter for dry cows or bred heifers until 2 to 4 weeks prior to expected calving. Then limit it to 20% or less. This means a large breed cow may be fed about 5 to 6 lbs of stover dry matter while a 700 lb heifer might get 3 to 5 lb daily. The key to its use is to include it in a well-balanced ration with proper amounts of protein, minerals and vitamins.

Source: Department of Dairy and Animal Science