Corn harvest is nearly in full swing, meaning stalks are available for grazing.
Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska forage specialist, offers several tips to getting the most out of crop residues.
In most years, you probably should start grazing stalks as soon as possible because the nutrient value of stalks declines the longer they are exposed to weathering. Grazing stalks right away will put more condition on cows and faster gains on young stock.
Be sure to check fields for excess grain before grazing, Anderson recommends. Dryland fields with small ears or fields with wind damage may have more grain loss than usual this year. Too much corn can cause acidosis and founder. Adapt cattle to a higher grain ration before grazing if a problem is expected.
Strip grazing by giving animals only one or two weeks worth of stalks at a time uses them more efficiently than leaving cattle in the same entire field for a couple months or longer. Strip grazing permits a higher stocking rate and provides a more uniform diet.
However, if heavy snow or mud occurs before you graze all areas, some good quality feed can be lost. Whole-field grazing permits fast early gains, but more supplements are needed late in the season after all grain has disappeared.
Be sure to provide salt, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin A free choice at all times. And once all the grain is gone, cows need about half a pound per day of an all natural protein to meet nutrient needs.