Why Ear Corn? (And What is it?)

I’ve been posting some pictures on Instagram lately about picking ear corn with my dad. Many people  have been sending me messages or writing me comments about how ‘old school’ this is and ‘not many people do this’ or ‘why are you picking ear corn for cattle?’ So I thought, well hey, I might as well inform everyone about the benefits of ear corn and why we still use it.

First off, ear corn is just simply kernels of corn still left on the cob, freshly picked from the corn stalk. Essentially, it’s corn on the cob, the same as your sweet corn you eat during the summer. (But it’s not sweet corn.)

This is what ear looks like!
This is what ear corn looks like!

So why do we use it?

Roughage. Cattle need a source of fiber. They need something to help with their digestive system. The cob of the corn provides that for them. You’ve already bought, planted, and picked the corn, why not use everything you’ve paid for? Now we don’t just feed the whole ears of corn to the cattle. Farmer’s use a grinder to literally break up and grind the pieces of corn so they are more digestible for the cattle. This then fills the cattle up and helps the farmer use more resources for less.

The grinder we use to make the cattle's feed.
The grinder we use to make the cattle’s feed.

No Drying. With corn that is picked off the cob, you have to put it into a corn dryer so that it doesn’t mold in storage. Well ear corn isn’t stored in a grain bin. It is stored in a thing called a corn crib. It is a building that allows air flow through the building to help dry the corn, but also keeps it from molding. The farmer can than just shovel out however much ear corn he needs. The other plus to this is that we’re not using gasoline, thus saving us money and being sustainable.

This is a corn crib. This is where the ear corn is stored.
This is a corn crib. This is where the ear corn is stored.


This is called a corn dryer. It's what we dry all the shelled corn in.
This is called a corn dryer. It’s what we dry all the shelled corn in.



So why do most cattle farmers not use it?

Lots of work. Picking ear corn takes time. No matter which way you look at. It takes longer to pick it, put in the corn crib, and most of all, it takes more time and effort to make feed with it. It doesn’t run out of a grain bin easily into the grinder. It has to be shoveled into the grinder. And it’s not a simple five scoops. It’s a lot more time consuming and hard work. Not to mention it requires a completely different machine to pick it.

The machine we use to pick ear corn.
The machine we use to pick ear corn.

We already feed cattle hay. There are two reasons we feed cattle hay. Well three. One reason being that my babies love fresh hay, especially in the dead of winter. Second, it’s a great source of protein for their bodies. Three, it works as a fiber source–same as the corn cob. So some farmers feel that it isn’t work all the extra work and hassle. Some, like my father, still really enjoy its’ uses.


Either way, cattle are getting the best nutrition they possibly can thanks to the caring farmer’s across this country!


Comments (2)

  • Nice article. Been growing ear corn here in north MS for a couple years now and enjoying it. Built an elevated crib so more gravity flow and not as much shoveling until the last. Grind and mix in some protein and the cows seem to do well on it.

    • Hi Wendell! This is great! It makes a really excellent feed source!! (Good idea on the elevated crib!)

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