September 23, 2015

Corn Stover

This year's field corn - "Truckers Favorite". We planted about a quarter
acres-worth. Electric netting keeps goats & chickens out of the corn. 

I'm always looking for things to grow to feed to our goats. Every year we grow field corn for the grain, and then turn the goats into the field after the harvest. But I've also learned that the leaves and stalks can be fed another way, as stover.

Stover is the remains of a plant (stalk and leaves) after the grain has been removed. As livestock feed, term usually applies to corn and sorghum. F. B. Morrison's Feeds & Feeding (an excellent book, by the way) states the leaves, especially, are quite nutritious. I know for a fact that the goats love to eat them.

We got a late start on our field corn, so it isn't ready to harvest yet. What I have been doing, however, has been thinning out the smaller and spindlier plants. The ones that don't look like they are going to make ears.

My corn stover, which is corn plant thinnings. 

Morrison also mentions that when the corn doesn't produce grain, the leaves and stalks will be higher in protein and total digestible nutrients than usual. So those thinnings should be really good for the goats. I can either dry them and add them to the hay, or run them through our goat chow maker.

And how is the corn grain doing? Even  though it isn't sweet corn, the ears are still young enough so that I could pick four ears to boil for dinner the other evening . 

4 ears of our corn. It isn't sweet corn, but it is delicious nonetheless.

I was so happy to see the ears filled out so well. That indicates good pollination. The taste is wonderful. Not super-sweet like sweet corn, but a delicious corn flavor. This variety makes tasty corn meal too, plus the kernels are small enough that the chickens can eat them without having to crack them first.

Now we wait until it dries on the stalk, then we harvest. Hopefully it will be ready before first frost.

43 comments:

Judy said...

Leigh - corn is wind pollinated that is why you plant it in blocks and not a long single row.

Like the way you are using your thinnings. I always had trouble thinning because I thought it was a waste of a plant.

Dawn McHugh said...

I am making notes of you do as I have just got my goats, a tottaly new livestock for us, I shall do the same with the our corn now I know, I will become a goat stalker :-)

Leigh said...

I've learned that most thinnings can be fed to goats!

Now, I'm not disbelieving you about wind pollination, but I've always planted my corn in blocks and most years have had very poor pollination(?) I've also observed a lot of pollinating insects hanging around the corn, so ??? What could be the difference?

Leigh said...

LOL. I like that. :)

Anna said...

Judy's right --- corn is wind pollinated. That said, at a certain time of year, our bees seem to get very interested in the pollen. The difference between an insect-pollinated plant and a wind-pollinated plant like corn isn't that the insects don't come to steal pollen, but that the plant doesn't lure them to the female flowers (the silks in this case) with nectar, so the bees just take their pollen and go home. I can't say why you've had better germination this year, though. My corn always seems to get well germinated even though my blocks are often quite small.

Leigh said...

Intellectually, I know that about corn pollination, i.e it is wind pollinated. However, our harvests for the past 4 years have been very poor, even after adding the proper organic soil amendments. In fact, Dan didn't even want to plant corn this year because it seemed like too much work for the yield. The only difference has been the bees!

Bottle Tree Farm said...

You are just so cool!

Mama Pea said...

I learn so much from you, Leigh, and sure appreciate your sharing of all that you experience and put into practice. We think bees are mystical, magical creatures so perhaps it's just the good ambiance they've added to your homestead! :o]

Mark said...

Another bit to add to my knowledge base so when my "goat day" finally arrives I'll not fall on my face in year one. Thanks!

Sandy said...

Leigh,

I have to agree with Mama Pea!!! You've taught us well :-)
In fact, I even have your book as a reference tool in my resource library.

Ed said...

Like the others said, corn is self pollinating but from experience growing up on a farm with over a 1000 acres of corn every year, the key to successful pollination is the amount of moisture the corn has during the week of pollination. Water stress can delay silking until post pollination, reduces the length of the silks making it harder to catch pollen and inhibits embryo development after pollination which creates stunted kernels, all bad news for filling out the corn rows on the cob. I've always heard that water stress during pollination can reduce yields by 5 to 10% per day during pollination. I'm betting you had good moisture during your pollination this year and haven't the past several years when you have had poor yields.

Renee Nefe said...

glad to hear that your corn is doing well this year and that everyone will get some.
sad news here... one of my few tomatoes this year was pulled off the plant before ripe and nibbled on...probably a squirrel. grrr

Frank and Fern said...

Great information, Leigh. Now I have another book to research. And thank you for the nudge to grow more feed for our animals. There is always so much to do and sometimes things get pushed to the side.

Fern

Vintage Maison said...

Here in France - and I'm sure in lots of other places too - all the plant is gathered, chopped and turned into silage for the animals. The animals love it!

DFW said...

Your blog will be forever bookmarked on my laptop. So much information. I love that you share good & bad to help all of us newbies.

Karen@ onthebanksofsaltcreek.com said...

We grew corn for the first time this year. I wasn't happy with the seed we picked (kernels too big). My guys like it so that is ok. What we don't eat at this point we just give to the chickens because they love it.

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

I grew up on a farm and had no idea what corn stover was! I just finished reading "The Accidental Farmer". Don't ask me why I read that as I am a senior citizen living on a city lot but found it interesting! Nancy

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

Maize is grown as a forage crop here in the UK. Thousands of acres are grown and then silaged. It is rarely grown commercially for corn on the cob as we can't guarantee that it will ripen in our English climate, though smallholders like ourselves are growing with increasing success as summers get warmer (apart from this one!) my cobs are slow to ripen this year.

Quinn said...

That makes a lot of sense in terms of my experience with corn pollination success - thanks, Ed!

Leigh said...

Ed, very interesting. We did get nice rainfall early this summer, but I never correlated the two. Sounds like we need to figure on some sort of irrigation if we have inadequate rainfall during pollination. It's so nice too look forward to all that corn.

Leigh said...

Oh no! That's disappointing about the tomato. When they're few, every one is precious.

Leigh said...

Fern, I suspect that you and Frank are like Dan and me - there is just so much to do to prepare that we're only able to chip away at each one a little at a time. I sometimes think that if I only had one thing to do (house, garden, animals) then I could do that thing really well. As it is, I just do the best I can.

That book is online at Google books, but at 691 pages, it's not the kind of book I'd want to read that way. Here's the link though - https://books.google.com/books/about/Feeds_and_Feeding.html?id=SVgaAAAAIAAJ

Leigh said...

Yes, silage is a common treatment. I've read mixed reviews on silage for goats, however, so I haven't been willing to learn how to make it.

Leigh said...

Well, both good and bad are a part of life. I think I learn more from problems and failures than i do from success! I always hope others can learn useful things from our experiences too.

Leigh said...

Karen, what kind did you get? It's interesting how something like kernel size can be a factor, as can other details. It's fun to experiment with varieties, though. I'd recommend giving Truckers Favorite a try!

Leigh said...

Nancy, I hadn't heard of that book and so looked it up. Sounds like something I'd enjoy reading!

Leigh said...

I'm surprised someone hadn't developed a shorter growing season variety of corn. Our northern gardeners in the US would appreciate that too!

Farmer Barb said...

I am always charmed by corn growing. Maybe I will grow some for my bees, too! It goes without saying that I will have to be fencing it. I also want to have sunflowers around the edge for cut flowers and because there will be a fence up. My bees need more flowers than I have around here. Great idea!

Farmer Barb said...

Remind me, the goat chow maker is a chipper?

Bateman Homestead said...

My corn got hit by fire ants, so our goats only got a few stalks. The rest went into the fire pit. One of these days I will hopefully find a way to keep the ants out of my garden.

Leigh said...

Barb, read Ed's comment above. Corn self-pollinates, but I couldn't help but think that the bees must have helped somehow. He has better information on corn pollination.

Leigh said...

Good memory! Yes, the link goes to the blog post. :)

Leigh said...

Stephanie, fire ants are one of my top garden pests, right there next to wire grass. I probably get 3 to 5 bites every time I'm in the garden. Sure takes the fun out of gardening.

Leigh said...

I don't know about that, but I do want to feed my goats! :)

Leigh said...

Somehow I think I just stumble across a lot of good information. It's funny, but I rarely see the bees anywhere. I've been trying for days now to get some close-ups, but they are usually out of sight!

Leigh said...

I figure every little bit helps!

Leigh said...

Aw shucks, Sandy. It's mostly hard school learning, but for me, that's the best kind. :)

Judy said...

Dad flipped the dirt up on the bottom of the stalk when cultivating, gave the corn more dirt around the roots and created an irrigation ditch. He would soak the ground when he watered. This does several things, waters the plants, of course; evaporation cools the air around the plants so the pollen doesn't get over-heated and keeps the tassels dry so the water doesn't wash the pollen away.

Judy said...

There are some 60 day sweet corns out there. Grew it one year in my fall garden. Stalks were about 4' and the cobs were short too but it was very tasty.

Leigh said...

Judy, thank you for that! Great information. Dan and I were talking about how we might irrigate; this sounds like the best method.

Leigh said...

Another great tidbit of information, Judy. I may look for that as well. I plant my popcorn and field corn at different times to avoid cross-pollination, but never managed to stick sweet corn in there as well. A shorter days-to-maturity would be useful there.

doublebhomestead said...

Being an Agricultural Consultant for nearly 40 years I can say with certainty that corn will pollinate just fine without help from any insect or bees. The pollen falls from the tassels at the top of the plant down onto the silks emerging from the ears. Each kernel on the cob has a silk attached to it. The amount of kernels depends on many factors. Even with adequate moisture in the soil, if the air temperature is too high, some of the kernels won't be pollinated. After pollination moisture must be maintained at an adequate level for the kernels to fully fill out. Being a new beekeeper mysel I did research on what plants would benefit bees and corn is low on the list. Corn is a nectarless plant but it does produce pollen. Bees will harvest the pollen, but it is an inferior pollen because it is low in carbohydrates. I am on a steep learning curve with my bees!

Leigh said...

doublebhomestead, welcome and thank you for your comment. Your information is truly helpful and was gently put, so please forgive me if I go off a bit. It isn't you, but I've gotten quite a few comments (as you've read) about bees and corn pollination, which wasn't even the point of the post! Rather, the post was to share about another homegrown goat feed and another step toward animal feed self-sufficiency. Contrary to the ignorant impression I apparently made, I do know that corn is self-pollinating, even if the tassels are attractive to insects. So, I've removed those two words, which were actually an excuse to link to another blog page. They have turned out to be a distraction, as evidenced by all the corrections I have received.

Anyway, don't take my rant personally! I'm on my way to return the blog visit.