NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — Fall rain and snow are good for wheat and next year’s crops, but it does have its drawbacks. One challenge is its impact on corn stalk feed quality.
While this fall has been quite dry, there has and will continue to be areas that receive some rain or snow events. Rain reduces corn stalk quality several ways. Most easily noticed is how fast stalks can get soiled or trampled into the ground if the fields become muddy.
Less noticeable are nutritional changes. Rain or melting snow soaks into dry corn stalk residue and leaches out some of the soluble nutrients. Most serious is the loss of sugars and other energy-dense nutrients, which lowers the TDN or energy value of the stalks. These same nutrients also disappear if stalks begin to mold or rot in the field or especially in the bale. Then palatability and intake also decline.
Another factor that affects cornstalk grazing is wind. Throughout the fall, there always seems to be those days where excessively high winds will easily blow corn leaves and husks off the field. This of course, can impact the amount of feed, and after grain, those leaves and husks contain the highest nutritional quality.
There is little you can do to prevent these losses. What you can do, though, is to closely monitor cow and field conditions while adjusting your supplementation program accordingly. Since weathering by rain reduces TDN more than it reduces protein, consider the energy value of your supplements as well as its protein content.
Weathered corn stalks still are economical feeds. Just supplement them accordingly.
— Jerry Volesky, University of Nebraska Extension
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