4 tips for grazing corn stalks this fall

October 4, 2016

3 Min Read
4 tips for grazing corn stalks this fall

Corn harvest is just getting started in my neck of the woods, although we’ve had a few late-season rains the last couple of weeks that have slowed progress in the fields.

Many farmers in our area are quick to disc their fields immediately following harvest, which is a shame as corn stalk residues are a great forage resource for cattle in the fall and early winter months. Many farmers have concerns with cattle removing too much residue from the fields or stomping and messing up the area on warmer days; however, if cattlemen can address these issues by removing the herd when the fields are soft and muddy and limit the number of days spent on each field, a relationship can begin that’s both beneficial to both the farmer and the rancher.

Of course, the rancher saves money on hay and other feedstuffs by keeping his cattle out on stalks this time of year. And the farmer benefits by having cattle on his fields, providing microbes through their manure for soil health. In addition, with lower commodity prices right now, grain farmers might be more willing to rent their fields for a few months before tilling to bring in some additional dollars to their bank accounts.

For livestock producers to get the most out of renting and grazing corn stalk residue, Aaron Berger, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator, offers four tips for corn stalk grazing this fall.

1. Determine stocking rate

Berger says, “Stocking rate should be determined based on corn bushel yield per acre and the average weight of cattle that will be grazing."

The “Corn Stalk Grazing Calculator” is an Excel spreadsheet that can be used to calculate this and is available for download or as a Mobile App.

2. Calculate available grazing days per field

“A quick way to estimate grazing days per acre available for a 1,200 pound non-lactating cow is to take corn bushel yield and divide by 3.5,” writes Berger. “For example, 180 bushel yield / 3.5 = 51 grazing days per acre.”

3. Scout fields

Berger advises, “Scout fields prior to grazing to determine the amount of corn present and to look for piles that could cause grain overload which can result in bloat or death in cattle. If there is more than 8-10 bushels of ears of corn per acre on the ground, a grazing strategy to control corn intake will need to be used.”

4. Evaluate quality of crop residues

“Quality of grazing starts high at approximately 70% total digestible nutrients (TDN) and then decrease to a low of 45% TDN at the end of the grazing period,” says Berger. “The rate of quality decline is dependent on stocking rate and environmental factors such as moisture and field conditions.”

For additional tips on supplementation needs for mature non-lactating spring calving cows, first-calf heifers, fall-calving cows and weaned calves, click here.

Are you planning to rent any corn fields for grazing this fall and winter? If they aren’t your own fields, what stipulations do you have with the grain farmer? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

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