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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Drought makes corn stalk bales more profitable

  • They look like an average big round bale of feed but the bales south of Pratt are made of corn stalks not the usual sorghum or alfalfa or CRP grass.
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  • They look like an average big round bale of feed but the bales south of Pratt are made of corn stalks not the usual sorghum or alfalfa or CRP grass.
    Mark Fincham is making the best of a bad situation and producing a feed product that is making money.
    The drought has greatly reduced the amount of livestock feed available to cattle producers and feed lots. This gap has raised the cost of feed including feed made from corn stalks, Fincham said.
    "The value of corn stalks has gone up and we're taking advantage of that added value," Fincham said.
    To assure the quality of bales, Fincham has had protein tests done on the corn stalks and the results have been higher than he expected.
    Normally Fincham would just leave the stalks over the winter and work them into the soil in the spring as a natural fertilizer. Making bales with corn stalks is not a common practice.
    However, getting a good price for a bale of corn stalks was just too much of a temptation so he turned a baling crew loose in the field to make corn stalk bales.
    Making corn stalk bales is a time consuming process and the cost to produce bales usually outweighs the return on investment.
    When corn is harvested, the stalks are pulled down through the corn headers and the ears are stripped off and run through the machine where the kernels are removed from the cob.
    The stalks just lay on the ground and are either left there for grazing cattle over the winter or they are worked into the ground in the spring.
    When the stalks are baled, a special rake is used to gather the corn stalks into windrows just like an alfalfa or sorghum field.
    The windrows are allowed to dry out then a baler makes the big round bales. The irrigated circle will produce about 500 bales on the 130 acres.
    Fincham is selling the bales to feedlots that have felt the crunch of finding enough feed to take care of their livestock.
    Corn stalks should work very well as a bale feed. Farmers frequently rent out crop circles to cattle ranchers for grazing cattle during the winter.
    Cattle graze on the stalks and also get the occasional ear of corn that didn't make it into the combine.
    This is not the first time Fincham has baled stalks for feed. In 2011, the area was also hit with drought conditions that cut cattle feed production. With increased prices for baled feed including corn stalk feed, he put up corn stalk bales as an additional source of income.
    Page 2 of 2 - Other farmers in the area are also taking advantage of the extra income created from the drought conditions.
    "Without the drought this would not be worth doing," Fincham said. "But the price has made it saleable."
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