This section is from the book "A Guide To The Poisonous Plants And Weed Seeds Of Canada And The Northern United States", by Robert Boyd Thomson, H. B. Sifton. Also available from Amazon: A guide to the poisonous plants and weed seeds of Canada and the northern United States.
In parts of the United States, and to a lesser degree in Canada, it is customary to gather the ears from the cornfield, leaving the stalks standing. Cornstalk disease in certain of such neighbourhoods causes the death of numbers of the cattle allowed to pasture on these stalks.
Alway and Peters investigated this disease in Nebraska. They obtained statements from 404 people in one county who had lost cattle to the number of 1,531 during the seasons of 1906 and 1907,. Their information indicated that by far the greater number of deaths occur during the first month of pasturing, and more than onefourth during the first week. They found further that the number of losses is not reduced by admitting the cattle to the field for a short time only at first; also that a supply of feed in addition to the stalks makes very little difference. The further fact was established that animals which have contracted the disease very rarely recover.
The cause is still a mystery. The trouble is believed by many to be similar to forage poisoning, which comes from eating mouldy and immature corn or other similar fodder. There is a fundamental difference, however, in the fact that cornstalk disease attacks cattle, while forage poisoning is confined to horses and mules.
The danger seems to be obviated by cutting the cornstalks when ripe and shocking them. No remedy has been found for the disease when once contracted.