Wednesday, March 02, 2011

I Want to Feel Corny ...

The combination of rising feed costs, my current job changes/situation, and my desire to make the farm work has me thinking a lot about corn lately. Specifically I'm thinking of growing some of my own corn this year for livestock feed ... at least enough to experiment with that is. I currently have a couple of areas that I'm thinking of planting. One of the areas is where the pigs lived a couple of years ago and where the cows wintered last year. The other area is where the sheep and cows wintered this year. I figured that both of those areas would have a few extra nutrients that might help things along a little bit. Also, both areas have both been "sacrifice" areas that would need to be replanted anyways so I think it makes sense to try my hand at growing corn.

Like everything else on the farm my corn growing knowledge is limited ... very limited actually! Of course I have raised small amount of seed corn in the past, but I've never done anything beyond that. As soon as it is possible in the spring I will need to plow up those areas and disc it all (a few times I'm sure). From there I'll need to get some seed into the ground ... which I haven't quite figured out yet. I do have a single row garden seeder around, but I need to get a belt for it and see if it will work. If that doesn't work out I guess I can always do it by hand. If I'm really good this summer maybe I could even talk my uncle into bringing down one of his Minneapolis Molines with a cultivator.

As you can see I don't have my mind fully around this idea yet other than knowing that I want to do it. I'm very interested in all of the suggestions that you may have. I'm looking for some ideas on finding some good open-pollinated corn, help with planting and cultivating, harvesting ideas (I'm thinking hand picking it), storage (on the cheap), and anything else. This would be a totally new direction for me and one that I didn't really expect to make at this point, but I'm interested in trying it out on an experimental level at least and seeing if I could come up with something in the future.


Mike W. said...

If you are going to raise corn for feed, stay away from BT or GMO seed. Go for either hybrid or heritage.

Anonymous said...

sounds like you are in my shoes from last year... im selling all of my equipment... wish i would have known would have made you a great deal on a corn planter. (sale today) i do have enough open pollinated seed corn left that could get you a little ways and it did really good for me this last year. chad

John said...

I'm very interested in this too. I've actually done it several times but I still don't have it working smoothly.

Here's what I've learned:

1. Deer will eat it ALL. You have to have some way to protect it in a small plot. Dogs worked well one year, I've had trouble every time I didn't have dogs.

2. Variety matters. One year I had great results and like a fool I didn't save any seed (yes, it was open) and I never knew the variety. Since then I keep trying different varieties with mixed luck.

3. Corn is a heavy feeder, so your sacrifice areas are probably a great idea. One year I went around the outside of my small plot throwing horse manure in as far as I could with a shovel. I wound up with a kind of donut shaped corn field with great healthy high yield stuff around the edge and much worse plants in the center.

4. Hand harvest is really not that bad (I wear gloves) husking is the worst part. The old fashioned crank shellers which have a fly wheel are VERY effective, the smaller non-flywheel ones are OK, and the little hand ring manual ones beat nothing but only just. Hogs and chickens don't need it shelled anyway, I don't know about cows or sheep. A neighbor of mine had a hammer mill and he ground the whole thing, husks, cob, and all, for his cows.

5. Since it drys in the field if you shell it you can store it in old feed sacks just like the stuff you buy. Mice might get at it, but they don't eat that much, and traps and cats do work. A few bags can be stored in garbage bags, but for more you'd have to build some kind of rodent proof feed room. I saw a guy once who built a kind of big basket out of chicken wire and stored it in his tobacco barn to keep the rain off.

My 2 (or 5 ) cents. I hope you get lots of responses with better info.

eliav said...

why till?

berryvine said...

I know what you mean about feed costs. We were thinking of seeding corn this year in some of the bottoms we usually cut for hay. We have a guy who uses a "no till drill" he comes out and plants over the existing ground.It has worked really well the few times we have done it. We don't harvest though we cut for silage.

Rich said...

I'm a little short of time today, but I'll try to give you an idea of what I have done (when I have time I'll try to give more detail).

I bought some Minnesota 13 seed a few years ago from:

Another source that I haven't bought from is:

Don't put off buying seed too long or the suppliers will run out of seed.

If you want to grow your own seed, plant a smaller area and do everything "right" (fertility, cultivation, seed bed, etc.) for the best chances of getting some high-quality seed. A 2000 sq. ft. area should give you enough seed to easily plant a much larger area next year. Hold back enough seed to plant your seed area the following year and plant the remainder of the seed you buy in a "production" area that is less intensively managed.

When you save the seed from your harvest, only save the seed from the 75% in the center (feed the tip and butt seed to the pigs).

When planting grain, consistency and uniformity is your friend. Develop a uniform seedbed, and plant at a consistent depth, seed spacing, and row spacing.

Plant your corn a minimum of 1.5" deep (important for proper root development). Hilling or cultivating after emergence can be important and can help make the field "more uniform".

The agronomic principles that apply to GMO corn also apply to OP corn, any information that you can find about growing the latest hybrid corn will also apply to the oldest OP variety (just don't spray RoundUp on your OP corn unless you want to kill it).

For grain production, OP corn should probably be planted at a population of about 18,000-24,000 seeds per acre. I haven't experimented with drilling it at higher populations for grazing yet.

KSU has a publication about corn production at:

I hope that helps, I'll try to dig up more information when I have more time. If you have any questions, I'll try to answer them if I can.

Adkins Family farm said...

The sad reality is that the feed prices will continue to rise with no end in sight. I've raised corn before but it's been a long time ago. I'm thinking about planting a little patch this year to see how it does. I hope your corn does well. I know the areas you picked will help production.

Rich said...

There is a posting from one of Gene Logsdon's books at:

That describes one of his methods for planting his small corn plots.

From that posting:
" early spring, the first plantings are made ... seeding clover and alfalfa on the new wheat ... In late April,...I disk the other half of last year’s corn plot (half has already been planted the previous fall to wheat) and sow it to oats, again using the little broadcast seeder. ...I interplant red clover and alfalfa with the oats. The next job is planting corn in the fall-plowed plot that was last year’s hay plot. I use the the tractor, disc, and harrow to prepare the seedbed, although occasionally, I have used the garden tiller instead. I then plant this ½ acre with a little hand-pushed row seeder... After corn harvest in the fall, I disk half of that plot and plant it to wheat with the broadcaster. After the last harvest on the hay plot, it is plowed, usually in November..."

Last year, I did something similar. I had a mountain of compost that I spread over my "seed plot area" the previous fall. In early spring, I ran a little 1-bottom plow over the area, then harrowed it to smooth it out. I planted my corn in late March and cultivated once with a tiller. Since it is hot in OK and I planted a 87 day variety of Minnesota 13, the corn was drying down by late summer.

After I hand picked the corn, I ran a brushhog over the area, then in late October I broadcast some wheat left over after I had cleaned out our drill. I did spray any weeds with RoundUp (I typically use a blend of conventional and organic techniques) before broadcasting my wheat seed.

Now the wheat is thick and ready to be plowed, tilled, grazed (if I was so inclined), or killed before I plant my corn.

On a larger scale, cattle or pigs could be used to graze the corn stalks (instead of brushhogging), and cattle could also graze the wheat pasture in the spring or your calves could creep graze it in the spring.

The wheat could be cut for hay in the boot stage or harvested for grain and straw later in the summer. Then the field could be replanted to wheat over the winter and planted to corn the following spring.

On a related note, the Devon's Gold variety sold at:

was developed in Iowa, and you might be able to obtain some locally from the farm with a little research. (I think I have seen some references to the farm on the Practical Farmers of Iowa website).

Walt said...

If you are looking for OP corn, you might check out Abbe Hills Farm in Mount Vernon, Iowa. I planted some of theirs a couple of years ago and it did pretty well. The OP corn they sell has been grown on that farm since 1903. They have been working with Iowa State to improve the yield and standability. You can read more about it at the farm website,

Walt said...

If you are looking for an OP corn, check out Abbe Hills Farm of Mount Vernon, Iowa. They have been growing OP corn on the farm since 1903. The current owner, Laura Krouse, has worked with Iowa Sate University to improve yields and standability. The website is

Jamie said...

WE use Greens Haven for OP corn varieties. (Not advertising, but farmer to farmer.. good folks willing to help. Heritage corns... Reids... etc...) A crib for drying ear corn further is simple, my neighbor built a sqaure board crib in what was previosuly hay storage. And for harvesting, for small farm use similar to ours, old 1-2 row pickers are affordable most places and simple to repair. In my opinion (not to much, but enough, Im only 24) in the long run raising your own corn is way better! We are on facebook.

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