By Brad Schick
Baling corn stalks is becoming more and more common. Corn stalks, or corn residue, is a valuable option for beef producers to reduce feed costs. Advancements in harvesting technology to increase the feeding quality of the residue bale have arisen due to increased utilization of corn residue as a marketable product for feed, bedding, and fuel. How those bales are windrowed and baled affects their quality and nutrients leaving the field. For one ton of corn residue, those nutrients are 17 lbs. of nitrogen, 4 lbs. of phosphate, 3lbs. of sulfur, and 34 lbs. of potash. More residue removed means more nutrients to be replaced.
Trials at UNL examined the EZ bale and New Holland Cornrower systems. The EZ bale system is where the combine tailings are dropped in a windrow behind the combine, and then the windrow is baled, including the tailings and two rows of stalks. This system replaces the raking step. The traditional rake and bale system removes about two-thirds of the residue while the EZ bale removed about one-third.
Another trial looked at the New Holland Cornrower system, where an attachment to the cornhead cuts two, four, six or eight rows of stalks and places them in a windrow where the tailings are dropped. This replaces the raking step. When eight rows are windrowed, the yield is similar to rake and bale, and when two rows are windrowed, the yield is similar to the EZ bale system.
Growing calves fed bales that were raked and baled behind the combine gained 2.11 lbs./hd/day while baled behind a cornrower head with two rows chopped gained 2.34 lbs./hd/day. This was due to less corn stem within the bale. The EZ bale feed resulted in gains of 2.19 lbs./hd/day.
There are several systems to bale corn residue a particular way. Be sure to know the pros and cons from a feed, fertilizer, and performance standpoint.