By Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist
Corn harvest is nearly in full swing. When corn stalks become available for grazing, several decisions need to be made. For starters, how soon should you move cows to stalks?
Most years you probably should start grazing stalks as soon as possible. The nutrient value of stalks declines the longer they are exposed to weathering. Grazing stalks right away will put more condition on cows and faster gains on young stock.
Be sure to check fields for excess grain before grazing. Dryland fields with small ears or fields with wind damage may have more grain loss than usual. Too much corn can cause acidosis and founder. Adapt cattle to a higher grain ration before grazing if a problem is expected.
How to graze is another decision. Strip grazing by giving animals only one or two weeks worth of stalks at a time uses them more efficiently than leaving cattle in the same entire field for a couple months or longer. Strip grazing permits a higher stocking rate and provides a more uniform diet. However, if heavy snow or mud occur before you graze all areas, some good quality feed can be lost. Whole-field grazing permits fast early gains but more supplements are needed late in the season after all grain has disappeared.Be sure to provide salt, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin A free choice at all times. And once all the grain is gone, cows need about half a pound per day of an all natural protein to meet nutrient needs.
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