Grazing corn residue can save landowners precious dollars.
Randy Wiedmeier, a University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist based in Gainesville, Mo., offered a primer on the topic:
•Corn crop residue consists of grain, husks, leaves, cobs and stalks with the nutrient value and energy density being highest in grain, husks and leaves, followed by cobs and stalks.
•Allowed uncontrolled grazing, cattle will consume the most nutritious residues first and usually will not consume the cobs and stalks unless forced to.
•For each ton of grain harvested there is usually a ton of residue available for grazing.
•Most sources indicate one acre of corn crop residue will support one dry, pregnant cow for about 45 days, which is considered good carrying capacity.
•Those sources also indicate a 25 percent to 75 percent reduction in cow feed costs when grazing corn crop residues compared to mechanically harvested feeds such as hay.
•GMO corn crop residues are as nutritious and high-yielding as non-GMO varieties.
Start-up costs come into play when grazing corn residue. Scott R. Chandler, writing about the topic for North Carolina State University, gave this explanation:
“Start up costs associated with cornstalk grazing are few. Modern temporary electric fencing offers flexibility and is relatively inexpensive, considering it can be easily taken up and used year after year. Using a 20 acre, 1,100-by-800 foot field and grazing cows as an example, with 10-cent per foot fencing, costs are about $378. If it takes about $500 to ‘get it all done,’ with two cows/acre for 30 days that’s about 42 cents per cow/day for the first year and even less after that. If winter feeding costs are 72 cents per cow/day, the break-even point would be if winter feeding is reduced by about 18 days.”
Andy McCorkill, a University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist based in Buffalo, Mo., said one of the drawbacks of corn residue grazing could be a lack of sufficient protein in the residue. A good rule of thumb is to consider supplementing nutrients or moving your cows when corn kernels in the manure are few or nonexistent.
Colin Collins, who farms in Howell County, Mo., along Howell Creek, is grazing more than 300 late-trimester cows on corn residue this fall.
“As fields are available and where we have adequate fencing, we’ll “turn (cattle) onto corn residue,” Collins said. “If it’s too wet, they’ll stomp the ground – compaction becomes an issue – and it’s not good for the next crop. You have to be able to manage the crop ground because (when) we don’t freeze here in the Ozarks, compaction is always an issue.”
The work is intensive.
“You have to let the cattle on the field and have watering arrangements,” he said. “Then when it’s about to rain, you’ve got to get them off the ground, and a lot of folks don’t want to mess with that. No, it’s not for everybody.
“We use (corn residue grazing) as a stop-gap from October through Thanksgiving,” Collins added. “By keeping our cattle out of our stockpile fescue, we let it lush up as much as we can (during that time frame).”
Darrell Kentner, a farmer and rancher in Barton County near Jasper, Mo., has been grazing corn crop residue for the past 10 years.
“You either need a permanent fence system or temporary fencing and an available water supply,” Kentner said. “I extended the waterlines down into the cornfield and planted a hydrant in the fence line out of the way. And that allowed me to have a source of water.
“The corn stubble I’ll be grazing this year, I’ll have access to a pond.”


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