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Overcoming Forage Shortages in Drought-Stressed Areas


For those beef and dairy producers with forage inventory challenges, it’s time to get creative with rations. As soybean and corn grain harvest gears-up, producers should be looking at forage options from those two crops. In general, we can expect 1-1.5 tons of soybean residue per acre and more than 2 tons of corn stover residue per acre with normal grain yields.

Planning is critical for harvest success. As fall rains arrive, the window of opportunity to haves crop residues begins to close. For those farms that are not harvesting grain, you should be contacting local farms in your immediate area about purchasing their crop residues. Prices for harvested stover will generally range from $50-75/ton of dry matter. Properly supplemented rations for beef and some classes of dairy cattle and sheep can economically utilize these residues as alternative forages.

Other considerations including nitrate toxicity in drought stressed forage, should be considered. If you have questions about nitrate risk, samples should be sent to a laboratory to ensure levels will not affect livestock health. Laboratory analysis of forage is also recommended to match feed resources to livestock production needs. Michigan State University Extension has many resources listed below to help guide the planning process for harvesting and feeding livestock this fall and winter.

Here are some key links for corn harvest and residue value information:

For additional cattle management resources, visit the Michigan State University Beef Team website.

Source: Michigan State University