When maize is grown for grain, the stalks left after husking can be an important feed for stock. When cattle have access to good alfalfa or clover hay, the stover can profitably be used as half the roughage ration for fattening cattle and sheep; for stock cattle an even higher proportion can be used (Göhl, 1982).
Maize stover is the best of the cereal stovers for livestock feed. Where very abundant in relation to the livestock, it can be grazed off. Otherwise, on large enterprises, it can be ensiled or collected and dried. Many small-scale farm systems collect the stover when the cobs have been harvested and either dry it in the field or at the homestead. In some places of fuel scarcity, even the roots are dug up together with the stem bases and used as fuel. Cut stover can be ensiled if chopped, moistened, well compacted and sealed. Maize stover has a higher nutrient content than most straws, with about 6% crude protein. In North America, it is frequently fed to dry, pregnant cattle as basis of their ration; either grazed or chopped, and fed with or without being ensiled. It is often stored by stacking or baling after field drying.
Sweet-corn cobs, now a widely-grown commercial vegetable for fresh use, canning and freezing, are harvested while the plant is still green, and thus provide a large yield of high-quality roughage as a by-product. Sweet-corn stover benefits from being left growing a few days after harvest of the cobs. Maize is often harvested as roasting cobs, for sale in urban areas. As it is at a more mature stage than sweet-corn, the stover from such plants is a superior feed (or if dried, hay) compared to that from a fully-mature crop (Suttie, 2000).
Recent advances in feeding strategies include the use of green maize stover tops as fodder, sometimes supplemented with grain legume crops (Bwire et al., 2002). In Tanzania, green maize stover tops (including leaves and tassels) can be offered as feed to dairy cattle in semiarid regions during the dry season. Time of harvesting affected nutritive value, due to the rapidly declining quality when plant matter remains on the field (Shirima et al., 1994 cited in Bwire et al., 2002). Harvesting maize stover tops when still green led to higher OM digestibility (62-65%), crude protein level (5.2-5.9% DM) and metabolizable energy (8.6-9.0 MJ/kg DM) compared to later stages. Storing maize stover tops in a shed preserved nutritive value much better than laying and stacking them in the field. Green maize stover tops supplemented with lablab forage led to performance similar to that obtained with a grass hay mixture, and to higher milk production (5 kg/d) and voluntary dry matter intake (8 kg DM/d including 5 kg of green maize stover tops) (Bwire et al., 2002).