Over the past several weeks, a considerable amount of corn has been harvested for grain. The corn stalk residue or fodder that remains offers another grazing opportunity for beef cattle or sheep. According to a Penn State Extension publication, "Grazing Corn Stalks with Beef Cattle," for every bushel of corn there are about 18 pounds of stem/stalk, 16 pounds of husk and leaves and 5.8 to 6.0 pounds of cob left as residue.
According to a University of Nebraska beef production site, for a quick estimate of corn stalk grazing days for a 1,200-pound non-lactating cow, divide the corn grain bushel yield by 3.5. Corn stalk residue does provide energy and crude protein but is low in mineral and vitamin A content, therefore a well-balanced mineral and vitamin mix should be provided free choice along with salt.
Cattle and sheep grazing corn stalk residue select and eat the grain first, followed by the husk and leaf and finally the cob and stalk. Typically, there is less than 1 bushel of corn ears dropped per acre unless the field has experienced high winds. One potential issue with selectively consuming the grain first is digestive upset/ acidosis, or in severe cases, bloat and even death. Before grazing, scout the field to determine if there are piles of grain that could cause grain consumption overload. In these situations, and/or if there are more than 8 to 10 bushels/ acre of corn on the ground, a good grazing strategy is necessary to limit corn intake. The key is to increase the stocking density. Generally, this is done by limiting the grazing area. Strip grazing works well with corn stalk residue. As stocking density increases, selectivity decreases. Livestock are forced to eat more of the forage portion of the corn stalk residue, and thus dilute the impact of the corn grain.
Quality of the corn stalk residue declines over time and is highest in the first 60 days after harvest. The greatest loss of nutrients occurs in the husk and leaf portion of the residue and the decline is hastened by wet conditions. Shortly after harvest, it is not uncommon for livestock to graze a diet with a nutrient content of 65%-68% TDN and 6%-7% crude protein. Corn stalk residue quality declines over time, and without managed or strip grazing, diet quality could fall to a 40%-45% TDN and 5% crude protein level. The rate of decline is dependent upon stocking rate, time allotted to graze a given area and environmental conditions. The greatest nutritional benefit from grazing corn stalk residue is generally achieved by planning for a 45- to no more than 60-day grazing period following harvest.
Milk quality workshop Dec. 6
Emphasis is increasingly placed on milk quality. One of the primary indicators of milk quality used around the world is somatic cell count (SCC). Elevated SCC is correlated with mastitis, a costly economic disease for dairy farmers. Wayne County Extension is hosting a milk quality workshop on Friday, Dec. 6. The workshop will be in the commissioners meeting room in the Wayne County Administration Building at 428 W. Liberty St., Wooster. The program starts at 10 a.m. and concludes by 3 p.m.
The workshop includes educational sessions along with several hands-on demonstrations. Instructors are Ben Enger (Ph.D., Assistant Professor Dept. of Animal Sciences: Mastitis and Mammary Physiology) and Luciana Da Costa (DVM, M.Sc., Ph.D., Dairy Extension Veterinarian: Mastitis and Milk Quality). Sessions include an overview of mastitis and the pathogens and environmental conditions that contribute to SCC in milk, how to better understand and utilize a DHI or other milk sample report, proper cattle handling to reduce stress before and during milking, optimal milking preparation procedures, and dry off procedures to minimize the likelihood of mastitis infections. A panel discussion with local dairy processors will provide another perspective on SCC and milk quality.
Attendees are encouraged to take DHI and current milk reports for discussion during the hands-on breakout groups in the afternoon. Milk samples also may be submitted for mastitis pathogen testing. Contact Matthew Nussbaum, ANR program assistant at the Wayne County Extension office for details on submissions.
Seating for the program is limited, and pre-registration is required by Nov. 29. Cost is $10/ person, which includes lunch and handout materials. Thanks to sponsors: Farmers National Bank, Farm Credit Mid-America and PNC Bank for their contribution.
— Rory Lewandowski is an OSU Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.