Supplement young cows when grazing corn stalks
December 6, 2016
Last weekend's two inches of rain has all of us hoping for a hard freeze. The snow is melted and the feedlots are a muddy mess. The cattle market has demonstrated a little recovery and many producers are marketing before winter hits again. Some producers are having lameness issues in the lots and even in cow herds. Hopefully we will get a freeze before the lots get too torn up.
The market has really changed in the last year. Both the cow-calf man and the feedlot producer are taking about half of the dollars for sales compared to the previous year. The cost of maintaining a cow in our area has increased to about $750.00 per year. This was no problem when calves brought $1,500 but now we are close to breaking even. To improve our returns, we must explore ways of decreasing cow costs.
Corn residue is an excellent source of low cost nutrition. In the past the pure farmers chose not to allow residue grazing. They wanted the stalks and husks to remain in the field, but at acceptable stocking rates, only about 15 percentj of the stover is removed. Soil compactions was also an issue, but if you graze for shorter periods of time this can be avoided. Nebraska research on residue feeding on a corn soybean rotation showed 3 additional bushel of soybeans and 5 bushel of corn after grazing.
There are two ways to graze corn residue, but we must understand the nutritional values. The corn kernels and husks provide the most protein and the rest of the plant contains lesser values. Cows glean the corn and husks before consuming stalks and cobs. The stocking rate should be one 1,200 pound cow for thirty days for every 100 bushel of corn. In our area this year that would be about one cow per acre. This should provide adequate nutrition for a mature cow. If cows are thin and need to increase weight, supplement 1/3 pound of distiller per day to increase body condition scores before calving. First and second calvers will require protein supplementation on stalks. This can be accomplished by supplementing two pounds of distillers. This is then bumped to three pounds as calving approaches.
The old approach is to place cattle in a field and leave them through calving. This requires good fences and usually more supplementation. The second is a mob grazing scenario. Cows are placed in fields and allowed to consume the most nutritious portion of the reside. Researchers have determined a 1,000 pound cow will consume about 700 pounds of dry matter monthly. Cows are moved from one field to another gleaning the best feed stuffs. It is best to start with fields farthest from the calving area. The cows move closer to home before snow and cold weather. Electric fence is sufficient when mob grazing. Compaction is minimized by moving cows before trailing impacts ground around water tanks.
Residue feeding is becoming very important in reducing production costs in cow-calf operations. Consult with your veterinarian, nutritionalist, extension specialist to determine a scenario which works economically and logistically for your herd. Careful planning and attention to detail will assure the profitability of your herd.