Profit Tip: Cornstalk Grazing Can Reduce Feed Costs
Grazing cornstalks during the winter is a good way to reduce feed costs for many operations. Cornstalks are an abundant, low-price feed source; and, depending on costs to transport cows, care and supervision, etc., grazing them is often the least expensive way to get cows through the winter.
Because the different parts of a corn plant vary widely in their nutrient content, stocking rate is the most important factor determining animal performance while grazing cornstalks. Corn grain left in the field and husks are good quality, leaves are medium quality, while cobs and stems are poor quality.
Cattle naturally prefer the best quality parts of the corn plant and consume them first. Thus, initial diet quality is high but declines over time as the best quality plant parts are consumed. If the stocking rate is set such that cattle are consuming down corn grain, husks and leaves the entire time they are in the field, good performance will result.
University of Nebraska data has shown that mature, spring-calving cows wintered on cornstalks at the appropriate stocking rate do not need to be fed supplemental protein.
A decision support tool has been created to help producers determine appropriate stocking rates, plan acres needed, and calculate costs. This tool, called the Corn Stalk Grazing Calculator, is available from the West Central Research and Extension Center website.
Dr. Aaron Stalker
Former Assistant Professor, Beef Cattle Nutrition
University of Nebraska West Central Research and Extension Center