Drought Stressed Corn Potentially Dangerous to Livestock
The abnormally dry and hot weather, along with an early spring, has severely damaged a lot of Butler County’s corn crop for 2012. That same weather has decimated pasture and hay fields for our livestock farmers. Many farmers began feeding hay in June, and there will likely not be enough hay to feed Butler County’s cattle herd through the winter.
Farmers across Kentucky are harvesting the damaged standing corn crop now as silage to try to salvage some of the money they invested in the crop. Much of the county’s upland corn will be in the fifty bu/acre yield range. This is about 1/3 of a normal yield. Farmers are looking for options to try and recuperate some of the money they invested in these corn fields. The principal concern with feeding drought damaged corn to livestock is the potential for nitrate toxicity. Most corn fields receive about 200 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per acre. This fertilize is normally used by the plant to make the grain that is harvested in the fall. Healthy corn plants move this fertilize from the soil throughout the plant to make it green and healthy. The absence of water this year has caused many corn plants to wilt, be stunted, and in extreme cases die. The nitrogen from the soil becomes concentrated in the lower portion of the stalk. This is where we get nitrate poisoning.
The University of Kentucky can test corn stalks for toxic levels of nitrate at the Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center in Lexington. Farmers who are considering feeding drought stressed corn to their livestock should test it before feeding to make sure it is safe. It costs about $30 to have a sample analyzed. This is a great risk management tool when you consider the cost of an animal. It takes several days to have a sample analyzed because nearly all of Kentucky is in the same shape we are.
For more information, contact the Butler County Extension Office at 112 E GL Smith Street, Morgantown, or call 270-526-3767.
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