Take Advantage of Corn Residue By Teri Walsh, Technical Support Specialist, Kent Nutrition Group Beef cattle producers can extend grazing season into early winter by taking advantage of crop residues, particularly corn. While harvested fields offer opportunities for beef cattle, it can bring a few challenges as well. Below are four points to consider when grazing corn residue. Amount of available forage On average, there are 16 pounds of husks and leaves left behind per bushel of corn per acre post harvest. If the average yield for a cornfield is 150 bushels per acre, there will be about 2,400 pounds of husks and leaves per acre. A 1,400-lb cow will consume approximately 2.5% of bodyweight per day, approximately 35 pounds per head daily. These numbers might suggest that producers could graze their herd for 68 days with a cow per acre carrying capacity; however, another factor to consider in the equation is a portion of all available forage will be trampled or deteriorate over time. Supplement protein Cattle will select the best parts of the corn residue to consume including dropped ears or loose kernels, leaves and husks. All of these leftovers can provide enough energy to meet the needs of a gestating cow (even the leaves and husks). The key to getting the most from the forage portion is to match the supplement to the forage. In this case, protein is the way to go. Supplementing protein provides nitrogen to the rumen microbes, which helps them better ferment poorer quality forages. Better fermentation means more nutrients are made available to the cow without providing additional forage. In addition, when the rumen microbes are more efficient, their turnover is larger, which means more microbial protein available to the cow. Water The lack of a source of water can be a limiting factor when it comes to grazing corn residue. Ensuring an adequate supply of water is crucial to maintaining intakes, regardless of the type of forage being grazed. A good rule of thumb for estimating water intake is 1 to 2 gallons per 100 pounds of bodyweight per day. Water tanks should be checked twice daily, especially as the temperatures start to drop, to ensure they are open and floats are functioning properly. Snow can be a source of water for cattle as well. The snow must be clean, soft and powdery in order for cattle to eat it. Research from Canada has shown that cattle will eat 30 to 40 pounds of snow per head per day to meet their water needs. Cattle will also alternate between eating snow and drinking from a waterer; in this scenario, cattle drank 2 to 3 gallons and ate 7 to 25 pounds of snow. Field scouting and fencing Prior to grazing, producers should scout the field to determine the amount of corn present in the residue. Look for large piles of corn, they should be removed or further scattered to help prevent acidosis from gorging on grain. Pre-harvest storms can contribute to an increase in ear drop; if there are more than 8 to 10 bushels of ear of corn per acre, consider implementing strip grazing to manage ear intake. While scouting the residue, be sure to check the fences as well. Corn fields are rarely fenced these days and if there is fencing, it may not be in the best shape. Ensure that the perimeter fence is adequate to prevent cattle getting out. Producers should also consider cross fencing to provide a more even diet through the grazing period as well as maximizing the grazing potential of the field. Grazing crop residue is an easy way for producers to make the most out of their fall harvest while providing their herd a great forage option that would otherwise not be utilized. Providing proper protein supplementation is key to making this form of grazing a success. For recommendations on which EnergiLass® or RangeBoss™ protein supplement best fits your cow herd, contact your local Kent Nutrition Group representative, or contact our Customer Service team at 866-647-1212.