Grazing Corn Stalks

One of the largest expenses in a beef cattle production system is feed, specifically winter feed. In the upper Midwest with its short growing season for grasses and significant amount of snowfall received in a typical year, crop residue is the most cost-effective method to extend the grazing season. 

Most farm business management personnel con-sider grazed crop residues to be among the lowest cost feed resources. This advantage is the result of the agronomic cost of production being already covered by the harvested crop. 

Figures from the Uni-versity of Iowa put the cost per day to feed a beef cow on corn stalks at around $0.05 per day compared to a cost of $0.60 to $1.20 for hay. The major expenses for grazing corn stalks would be fencing, water, and labor. Corn residue is one of the most commonly harvested and highest quality residue forages. 

Under most conditions, one acre of residue in a combined field can provide 30-45 days of grazing for a 1,200 lb pregnant cow. Cattle will first consume any grain remaining in the field. Then they will consume the more palatable leaves and husks and finally they will eat cobs and stalks. Cattle placed into a large field may be at risk for digestive disorders such as bloat or acidosis as a result of eating large amounts of grain.

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