With livestock forages, especially hay, still in short supply, feeding corn residue may help extend the grazing season. But, like other feeds, management is important.
"Corn harvest has started and the residue that is left in the field is not a bad feed for about 60 days after harvest," says Jeff McCutcheon, an Ohio State University Extension educator for Knox County.
One acre of corn residue can supply enough forage to sustain a 1,000-pound animal for as long as two months.
"The use of corn residue offers producers increased flexibility for fall and winter pasture and helps reduce overall feed costs," says McCutcheon. He adds however, that producers must keep in mind the palatability of the crop.
"The stalks are the least palatable portions of the corn plant. Livestock will selectively graze the most palatable portions of the residue first, starting with the grain, leaves and husks, and then the cobs and stalks," says McCutcheon. "Limiting access by strip grazing will allow for an increased stocking rate and greater utilization of the residue."
McCutcheon also recommends that cornfields be used immediately after harvest for 30-60 days to take maximum advantage of the feed value of the residue. This allows the permanent pastures to "stockpile" additional days of fall growth that could be grazed after the animals come off the cornfields.
Leaving corn residue in fields as a potential feed source for livestock also has fertilizer value.
"Corn stover contains a little phosphorus and moderate amounts of nitrogen and potassium," says Robert Mullen, an OSU Extension soil fertility specialist. "The actual amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, in a ton of corn stover are 16, 6, and 25lbs, respectively. Corn stover also contains organic matter that when returned to the soil does have value."
To learn more about grazing corn residue, refer to OSU Extension¹s fact sheet at ohioline.osu.edu/anr-fact/0010.html.