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Corn stalk grazing offers a cost-effective and plentiful winter cattle feed resource for an industry reeling from a drought-induced feed shortage.
Holzfaster says his day-to-day familiarity with the land is a big factor in determining stocking rates and movement patterns.
"We don’t like to pasture too terribly heavy because we feel there's value to maintaining some residue on the field for erosion control and nutrient breakdown. Our rule of thumb is that for 130 acres, 100 cows for 30 days is a pretty light stocking rate. So you just multiply that by the number of head or how hard you want the ground worked.
"On sandier ground, you might not want it pastured quite as hard. But with the yields increasing how they are – some of it is 200+ bu. corn – there’s a lot more residue out there, so you can stock it a little heavier." As mentioned before, UNL’s Cornstalk Grazing Calculator is a helpful tool for determining the appropriate stocking rate.
Holzfaster says residue grazing works best for older cows because they tend to be more effective and aggressive at foraging.
"Younger cows – first-and second-calf heifers – haven’t figured out how to make it work yet. And bulls are just too lazy to go out and hunt. So younger cows and bulls aren’t always the best fit for cornstalks, but it does work; you just have to take a little more intensive management approach and make sure they have enough supplement. They can fall behind pretty quick."
Holzfaster says he realizes drought is forcing more producers this year to investigate residues as a source of cattle feed. He's a firm believer in cornstalk grazing.
"I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t done it before to try it. I think they will enjoy how it works, particularly if they can lock in a long-term relationship," he says.
• The Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) is working with the University of Nebraska (UNL) to generate greater interest among corn producers to bale and graze crop residue for use as beef cattle feed. Kelly Brunkhorst, NCB director of research, says UNL Extension personnel are recording videos detailing various aspects of grazing, stover removal and its use in beef rations. NCB's role is to reach out to corn growers on stover removal’s potential benefits. The spots began airing in September on "Market Journal" (marketjournal.unl.edu/).
• In addition, the UNL is offering a webinar, entitled “Cornstalk Grazing – Understanding the Value to Cattle Producers and Corn Farmers,” on Oct. 2, from 12:30-1:10 p.m. Learn more here.
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