It's Corn Stalk Season Again

Oct 11, 2021

A good option to reduce annual feed costs and stretch forages into winter is to turn cows out on corn stalks in the fall. On average a corn field will produce 50 pounds of residue per bushel of grain and research shows cattle will harvest 30% of that residue. Cattle prefer to eat dropped ears, husks, and leaves first as they are more palatable than cobs and stalks. With the new corn varieties and improved harvest efficiencies, only 1-2% of corn ears remain in the field these days, but there is still plenty of good forage available. Research shows that the digestibility of husks and grain provides enough nutrients to maintain body weight and gestation in cows without supplementation. The quality of this residue declines through the grazing period as cattle harvest the higher quality portions and as weathering losses occur.

It can be difficult to know when protein supplement is needed. A good rule of thumb to ensure proper nutrition is that when the corn disappears in the manure, it is time to start supplementing. Spring calving cows should receive 0.5 to 1 pound of supplemental protein per head per day to start. Keep in mind, even if you rotate fields, the most nutritious parts of the stalks break down the quickest in the weather, so supplements are needed more later in the season.

With a little bit of management, grazing corn stalks can extend your grazing season into winter. Timely supplementation can make it an economical way to extend your bottom line. See your SFG feed rep and we can help you with the proper supplements to fit your needs today.