Grazing Cornstalks Can Reduce Winter Feed Costs

Corn crop residue provides good nutrition at a "price is right" cost.

Published on: Nov 12, 2012

Cattle producers looking to save on feed costs should consider corn crop residue for winter grazing. Michelle Shooter, a livestock extension agent in Robeson County, N.C., notes an acre of stalks from a 100 bushel-per-acre field will yield about 5,600 pounds of residues.

"Cattle tend to consume about one-quarter of that, so 1,400 pounds are possibly consumed," Shooter says. "The nutritional needs of a 1,200 lb. non-lactating and late gestation cow can be met by consumption of about 24 lbs. of corn residues."

Cows that eat this amount can gain ¼ - 1 lb. daily. One acre can provide nutrition for 2 cows for about 30 days, Shooter notes, or alternatively one acre may be grazed per cow for about 60 days.

Grazing Cornstalks Can Reduce Winter Feed Costs
Grazing Cornstalks Can Reduce Winter Feed Costs

Temporary fencing can be used for intensive management. Producers can look at it as a tool to help them get the most of the residue by maximizing the number of animals per acre of days of grazing.

"Cattle may be given access to only a part of the field at a time and then moved according to the speed of consumption," Shooter says. "With the same number of animals, this might extend the overall residue-grazing period of a yield by several days. A good rule of thumb to assist in deciding when to supplement the cows or to move them, is to watch for the disappearance of corn kernels in the manure. When cattle are through with the better quality grains, husks and leaves, which depends on the stocking rate and weather, supplementation or movement to a different field or pasture may be necessary."

Shooter notes the grazing can be extended if a producer side feeds with 2-3 lbs of soybean meal, 4-6 lbs. whole cottonseed, or 8-12 lbs of high protein hay per day for each head.

Residues can be deficient in phosphorous and Vitamin A, so Shooter says it is important to provide cattle that are grazing corn residues with free choice minerals.