"As a result of the prolonged summer drought, many producers are out
of pasture and have a short supply of hay," said Dave Seibert, who
is based in East Peoria. "Cattle producers are evaluating the option
of grazing, green chopping or ensiling corn for feed for the
remainder of the summer and into fall and winter.
producers must be extremely cautious with these options."
That need was clearly demonstrated, he said, by the Congerville
Twenty-seven cattle producers from 12 central Illinois counties
brought their drought-stressed corn to be checked for nitrate level.
"Many producers came to the evaluation with the opinion that
their taller, greener leaf corn with larger ears would not have the
same level of nitrate as the shorter, stunted, firing and earless
corn," he said. "This proved to be a false assumption. To everyone's
surprise, the taller, greener leaf stalks were among the highest in
The tallest stalks, at 88.2 inches, had "very high" nitrate
levels, and "high" levels were found in stalks 78.6 inches.
"Do not let height influence your expectation on nitrate level,"
As a result of this and other evaluations, Seibert recommends
that producers follow a number of guidelines before feeding
drought-stressed corn to cattle.
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"First, conduct a field screening test and/or a forage laboratory
analysis to determine the level of nitrate," he said. "Second,
obtain the whole plant moisture level prior to harvesting to make
sure the plants have good fermentation during ensiling and not lost
nutrients through excess silage leaching.
"Third, after three to four weeks of ensiling, send another
sample to a forage laboratory to obtain not only nitrate level but a
complete nutrient analysis -- NIR test. Fourth, balance a ration
using your local feed consultant or one of the computer ration
balancing programs. Finally, plan to base your winter feeding
program on blending other feedstuffs like hay, feed grains, alcohol
or distillers' byproducts, etc., with your drought-stressed corn
Seibert said that since there will be a number of fields that
will be harvested as grain production, producers might consider the
often-forgotten practice -- and one of the cheapest per day -- of
grazing corn stalks for fall and early winter feed supply.
Producers interested in receiving a packet of fact sheets on the
harvesting, feeding and laboratory analysis of drought-stressed corn
can contact Seibert at (309) 694-7501, ext. 224, or by e-mail to
of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental
Sciences news release]