View Full Version : Feeding Corn Stalks To Cattle

10-11-2007, 09:13 AM
This was asked on another post, heres some information for you.:)

Grazing corn stalks containing excess grain

Extra grain left behind by the combine can be a bonus for cattle grazing corn stalks, but too much grain can cause health problems.
Any time more than about eight bushels of grain per acre is left in the field after harvest, grazing cattle risk getting acidosis and founder. Both diseases are caused by excessive grain intake, which increases rumen acid production. This can cause severe foot and hoof problems, including lameness. While smut is not a health problem, some grain may contain other molds that can produce mycotoxins. Vomitoxin and fumonisin rarely cause problems for beef cattle at typical contamination levels; however, aflatoxin may be more of a concern this year. (See story in this week’s CropWatch.) If you suspect mycotoxin may be present, assay the grain to determine the extent of the potential problem.

Estimate the amount of corn down in a field. An 8-inch ear of corn contains about one-half pound of corn grain so it takes 112, 8-inch ears to equal 1 bushel (1 bushel = 56 pounds). Thus, by counting the number of ears, the amount of corn can be estimated. For corn planted in 30-inch rows, count the number of ears in three 100-foot furrow strips and divide by two to give an approximate number of bushels per acre. Count small and broken ears as half ears and count extra large ears as one and one-half ears. Any amount beyond eight bushels per acre will require a well-planned grazing strategy.

One strategy for using high-grain cornstalk fields is to minimize availability of grain to susceptible animals. A good way to do this is to first graze yearling cattle, calves, or cull cows destined for slaughter, then follow with cows. Another alternative is to graze only a few hours per day. You also could strip graze the field to force cows to consume some husks and leaves along with the ears of corn. A final strategy might be to feed some grain or ear-corn seven to ten days before cattle are turned out to help them adapt to a high-grain field.

One factor influencing the success of these strategies is the experience level of the cattle grazing the field. Old cows with previous experience in cornstalk fields can pick up amazingly high amounts of corn in a short time, as can experienced yearling cattle. If they have not been conditioned to eating a high grain diet, some of the previously listed strategies may fail. Inexperienced calves may actually have the least risk of founder or acidosis in high-grain cornstalk fields because they must first learn how to find corn. As a result, their grain intake increases gradually and safely.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist

Maximizing cow days of feed from corn stalks

The method of grazing cornstalks this fall and winter can be a key factor in the success of this feeding option.
Normally, whole-field grazing is the most common grazing method. With average corn stalk production, one cow can graze one acre for about 45 days; drought stress, grasshopper feeding, and hail will reduce grazing capacity. Early on, dry cows will at least maintain body weight, and may gain .5-1 pound per head daily while grain, husks and leaves are available. But after grain is gone, cows can lose condition unless supplemented.

Strip grazing by fencing off portions of a field or moving cattle from field to field, may be a better strategy when feed supply is tight. Strip grazing reduces trampling waste so the number of cow days of grazing per acre can increase. Also, average cattle gains during the grazing period are higher with strip grazing as long as heavy snow doesn’t bury much of the best feed before animals get to it.

Fall-calving cows can use crop residue for fall-winter grazing if fresh fields are made available at two to four week intervals. If the amount of ear drop is low, it may be advantageous to early wean fall calves at 90-120 days of age. Weaning calves would lower the nutrient needs of the cow so grain and higher quality roughage could be fed directly to the calf while the cow is maintained on crop residue. However, if the fall calving cow already is pregnant with her next calf, it may not be necessary to wean. These cows probably will loose body condition by grazing crop residues while suckling a calf; however, they will likely regain condition on summer pasture before fall calving. In this situation, pay close attention to first-calf-heifers to prevent them from getting too thin.

Another strategy might be to harvest corn residues, either by baling or chopping. Good quality feed can be available, especially if the stalk chopper is removed from the combine and just the two corn rows with all the tailings from the combine are harvested. By concentrating all the husks, loose kernels, and many leaves in one small strip, harvest is easier and the quality of this feed can be excellent for wintering stock cows. And most of the low quality stalks in the field are left for soil protection and improvement.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist

Nitrate risks when grazing or feeding corn stalks

This summer’s drought caused nitrate level to increase in many corn stalks. Before beginning to feed or graze stalks following grain harvest, determine the risk of nitrate poisoning.
Nitrates are most likely to be high in plants stressed by drought; irrigated corn stalks should be relatively safe. Hail and heavy grasshopper feeding also may have caused stress that elevated nitrate concentration.

Corn harvested earlier as hay or stalks baled after grain harvest should be tested for nitrates prior to feeding. Hay containing high levels of nitrates may need to be blended with low nitrate feeds to reduce the total level.

Nitrates are most heavily concentrated in the lower portion of the stalk. Leaves, husks, cobs, and grain usually have low and safe amounts. As a result, most stalks are likely to be safe to graze even if the lower stalk is a little high in nitrates. Cattle first will eat the low nitrate portion of the plant. As these parts disappear, the cattle slowly will begin eating more and more of the higher nitrate portions. But because cattle can adapt to high nitrate levels over time, they will not be harmed by the slow increase in nitrate content of their diet.

Irrigated fields may be safe where sufficient water was available. Areas such as the corners of pivots, though, might have high nitrates. Likewise, some areas within fields, both irrigated and dryland, might have suffered more stress than other sites and also have higher nitrate concentrations. Because these stressed plants are smaller and have thinner stalks, cattle might be attracted towards grazing these patches almost completely before grazing the well-irrigated stalks. If cattle selectively graze areas that have dangerous levels of nitrates, the risk of nitrate poisoning could be high.

Before grazing, gather samples from corn stalks in fields or areas within fields where high nitrates might be expected. Your selection of plant parts to sample may be critical in helping guide management decisions.

For example, if you want to check for nitrate levels in relatively normal corn stalks, gather just the plant parts cattle may be expected to eat -– the leaves, husks, and maybe the softer top part of the stalk. If the nitrate test shows that this material is below the danger level, animals can graze this field safely as long as they have plenty of the safe plant parts and are not forced to eat lower stalks.

Separately sample dryland corners of pivots or other areas with short plants that might be more attractive to grazing animals than taller plants. Be sure to sample the plant parts that animals are likely to eat, including the lower stalk if it’s thin and soft. If these samples indicate the plants contain extra high levels of nitrates, you might fence out this area when grazing or even disk the residues into the soil before grazing the rest of the field.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist

10-11-2007, 12:50 PM

09-07-2008, 01:27 PM
Good thread. I actually found it doing a google search on "strip grazing"

07-28-2009, 02:08 PM
Found this as #2 selection on google for "corn stalk hay" search... i know its an old post but helpful is this dang drought we are havin! Great job Marcia!

07-28-2009, 05:41 PM
I used to make my living grazing cow's on corn stalks.

08-10-2009, 07:40 PM

08-10-2009, 07:50 PM
Went down to check cattle today and they were bailing up corn stalks. Already bailed up the milo stubble. It is gouing to be a long hot summer and a hungry winter down here. HS

08-10-2009, 08:56 PM
Howard, I was down in Crystal City, Texas two weeks ago and I sure feel sorry for those trying to raise cattle down there. If you don't have irragation you are done.:omg:

03-14-2010, 04:10 PM
Its an isnpiring foruma and I am gonna send the link to my other friends