If you live in New York State, it is probably no surprise, especially this time of year, that farmers grow corn. Corn is a great resource for farmers to grow in NY because of our climate and each part of the plant including the stalk, leaves, and corn kernels can but utilized for animal feed leaving very little waste.
Did you know that there are many unique types of corn grown in NY? Sweet Corn, the kind that you can find in the grocery store or on a roadside stand, is perfect for summer dinner! Another popular type of corn grown in NY is Field Corn. Field corn is grown primarily to feed livestock but is also used to make human foods like corn tortilla chips or fuel like ethanol. Popping corn has been grown in the Northeast for many generations. It has a very different shape than field corn or sweet corn. Popcorn has a rounded top and is pointed at the bottom like a teardrop.
Field corn kernels have hard shells and starchy inner flesh that provide animals with energy. Farmers utilize corn in a variety of ways on the farm, both with keeping the health and nutrition of their animals in mind.
The stalk, cob, and leaves provide quality fiber and energy to cattle when they are finely chopped. A special piece of farm equipment, known as a Chopper, cuts the stalk and processes the entire plant before loading it into a truck. Once the truck is back to the farm, a large tractor with a blade pushes feed into concrete bunk silos where the feed will be stored. The heavy tractor helps to compact the pile of corn and limit the amount of oxygen in the feed, which could cause the feed to mold. After the pile is packed, it is covered with a special plastic and cut tires that help to keep the pile airtight and allows fermentation to take place. The fermentation process that the corn plant undergoes creates a feed known as Corn Silage. Corn Silage is easily digested by cattle and is a very palatable milking cattle feed option.
Farmers also combine corn to store as Dry Corn. Combining corn is done in late fall when corn plants are no longer growing and when they have lost most of their moisture content. A combine is another piece of farm equipment that is used to harvest the ear of corn from the rest of the plant. The combine removes the ear and "shells" it or removes it from the cob leaving just the kernels. Once the kernels are free, they are dried in a corn dryer to reduce the moisture content further. Corn must be dried before storage. If the corn is not dried and stored properly, it will mold, and the feed will not be salvageable. Dry corn is stored in large metal bins until farmers need it to feed their herd. Dry corn is very high in energy that cattle can utilize for maintenance and milk production.