Delivering harvest forages to your cows can be expensive, so if you have the option to let your cows graze to meet their nutrient needs it is a great benefit. Using your crop residue is an inexpensive option.
When grazing corn stalk residue your cattle will eat grain first, then the husk and leaf, followed by the cob and stalk. The average harvest loss in a corn field is around one bushel per acre, so if your cows have husk and leaf as well they will consume a diet that is 52 to 55 percent TDN and about 5 to 5.5 percent crude protein.
Weather records show that cows can safely graze stalks for crop residue around 65 to 110 days. Snow less than six inches does not stop grazing, but ice covered stalks will.
The recommended residue removal is approximately 50 percent of the husk and leaf. We should not force cows to eat the stalk and cob because they will burn more energy digesting them than they receive in nutrition.
If your cows graze stalk residue with a Body Condition Score (BCS) of 4.5 or less, we recommend supplementing with protein tubs to help the cows improve their BCS to 5. This will prepare them for calving and increase colostrum nutrition in their milk. Cows should be fed free choice mineral at this time also.
If you have any questions, please fill free to contact any of your United Farmers Cooperative locations and we will gladly serve your needs.