Grazing corn

Beef Production


Grazing corn

Dec 23, 2016 | 08:15 1 Name:  GSHOT2.jpg
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Well we've been grazing corn for a month now and I wanted to share some experiences and see what more experienced corn grazers had to say. We had absolutely no trouble introducing the cattle to corn and they made an excellent job of cleaning up from day one. We have been strictly limiting intake as the corn is mature so they get a day at a time then every third day get alfalfa silage. It's been miserably cold most of the time they've been on it so can't say they have been fattening up. Calves are doing great but leaner end of cows have probably lost a bit condition. Biggest problem has been snow load as we've had over 2 feet with another 2 feet in the forecast for Christmas day! I understand these are unusual amounts for this area but it strikes me corn grazing isn't nearly as "snow proof" as bale grazing. About 1/4 of the field on the west side is drifted 4-6 feet deep and like concrete. Can't push through it to crossfence, cows can't access that corn till spring where we'll presumably have to cross fence it all again to limit access. Some people I'd read swath their fencelines before winter but I can't swath more than a couple days ahead or the fences get drifted in and you have to re-clear them. We are not getting the days expected per acre based on yield clips we took and it's not because we are leaving a lot behind. Seems to be a disappearance rate beyond what we can explain. One thing for sure the guys selling seed that claim huge days/acre by dividing tonnage dm by # of cows and days with no allowance for wastage are doing the sector a big disservice. That said it's still economical feed - looks like around $1/day cash cost per cow equivalent and I like the fact that you can go drop a fence on snowshoes if you have to during a bad storm and the cows are fed. Reply With Quote
Dec 23, 2016 | 08:48 2 Please keep posting your experiences with corn grazing, we have been looking at corn grazing for a few years and are thinking of giving it a go next spring. We normally bale graze our herd which is pretty easy on the work side of things.. and after this summers haying circus maybe this is another way to get a better quality feed source.

Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and happy holidays spent with family and friends. Reply With Quote
Dec 23, 2016 | 09:16 3 GF - we are definitely not experts, but have been grazing corn for a while. We have never gotten either the days/acre or the cost per day that some of the proponents around here have talked about, but corn has been a nice partial fit for us. I am still not convinced that the corn on corn on corn rotation used by lots of folks here is a long term solution, and likely works less well in MB where there is presumably more disease pressure for corn.

This year we are at 9.2% CP and 65 TDN, so pretty good feed. We ration out up to 5 days at a shot without any troubles and usually wind up fencing through it with a tractor. We drop the loader and fence.
I was at a conference a couple of weeks ago with a pro ad informed corn grazier and learned a lot. One of our problems is that we have overfertilized (based on soil tests) and wound up with 2 cobs per plant. The gurus assure me I only want 1. I think I can pull back a bit on the fertilizer and probably actually improve or maintain my cow days. That should have a big impact on my costs. Not sure about MB but our biggest risk is heat units and I can only insure for moisture, so it is pretty risky to use as a sole feed source. We have found a bit fewer days when seeding later (less mature) but better stalk cleanup). The gurus also assured me that I would see a big boost in Organic matter, but that has not happened. I think you would if you were starting on worked over annual cropping ground.

Not as snow proof as bale grazing, but less labour. Corn has worked well for wind when we start on the leeward side of our preevailing winds. We usually see our cows gain quite a bit of condition on corn but they are on it as second trimester/early third dry cows. I don't think they are packing on the pounds when it is really cold, but they hold their own for sure.

I know sometimes corn needs a Protein supplement and this year in our area the molds are really doing a number on some of the corn, rendering some of the cobs 100% unpalatable. I think partly our later seeding (less starch) and choice of downward facing cobs helped us this year as we are mold and toxin free.

We have always planted at least 2 varieties in the planter and this year used 4. I also like that corn is a C4 (different disease spectrum and photosynthetic pathway), uses lots of phos and makes a nice soil texture when it is done. I have been trying to figure out how to interseed once the corn is established (eg: an annual vetch) but so far have stumped myself.

Our biggest problem with corn compared to cereal crops is that there is no spring regrowth for grazing or calving on. Last winter I broadcast seed barley on some corn stubble in March as an experiment and wish I had done the whole field. Reply With Quote
AllisWD45's Avatar Dec 23, 2016 | 11:12 4 Are you using non GMO from De Dell Seeds. I am wondering what you are using for weed control and which of their varieties are you using for grazing Reply With Quote
Dec 23, 2016 | 13:20 5 Lots of interesting information there Sean, thanks. We are looking at a 3 year corn/3 year alfalfa rotation as that would fit and supply both the corn and the alfalfa we need.
When did you feed test? we did it around first October as crop insurance were doing a yield assessment then. I suspect there was a significant quality decline between then and starting to graze late November due to advancing maturity particularly on one variety.
I thought the 2 cobs per plant came from being too widely spaced. We seeded with an airseeder and had a dense stand but still had some plants with 2cobs. We put on 80lb N and some manure as well, planning on 80lbs again next year. Why the heck would the gurus want one cob versus 2? As most of the feed value is in the cobs I don't see why you would want more leaf/stalk biomass.
Heat units are our biggest advantage - we got between 2800 - 2900 this year, less than 10% above normal. A thousand ahead of what we could expect in our part of AB. Lack of moisture will more likely be our weakest link longterm. I hope we see a boost in OM as the land it's on is the most over-farmed we have. Good land but the OM just farmed out of it.
Knowing we will get the heat units has inclined us to target big yields with mature corn complimented with alfalfa silage as I think it'll be better for the cows by limiting grain intake as well as supplementing the protein.
We are looking at seeding hairy vetch with the corn - grew some as a trial under oats this year and it looks promising - with the growth pattern it had it would have provided no competition at the early stage for corn but grew well late into fall. We don't plan on spraying beyond seeding so that would allow us to seed the vetch at the same time. It looks like we will have spring grazing this time - once the snow banks go, lol.

Allis, De Dell only have non-GMO varieties. We used their "Delightful" silage variety and have ordered the same again. We are dropping the open pollinated variety we grew as it just didn't yield anything like enough despite the cheaper seed. The spray option we went with was Focus a residual spray that goes on the soil at seeding time. Expensive and didn't work great this year but hoping it will do better in a more normal year. It needs 1/2 inch precipitation to activate. We hadn't had any rain or weed growth this May so seeded and sprayed the same day. We got 1.5 inches overnight so probably washed some of it away then of course had a huge flush of weeds. Reply With Quote
Dec 31, 2016 | 01:47 6 Thanks for info...was pretty gung ho to try, however with limiting cows and hearing about some mold issues, think I will stay with cereals/millet for now. Thought I had put up my triticale too late, but the cows seem to be doing well on it....and cleaning it up. Was going to move bales off field and cultivate for corn, so had put twine on year, just dumping with no twine. I can then use electrics, or what I have been doing was just grappling and feeding in one section...once bales were off, let cows into that section to clean up spillage.....and just deep rotating.....nice and warm in tractor and by using panels across gates, just lift them out of way with loader.....don't even have to get off of tractor. Wished I hadn't taken so long to get lazy..... Reply With Quote
Dec 31, 2016 | 07:58 7 The learning experience continues...we have been absolutely dumped on with snow, I'd guess 3 1/2 feet now but terribly drifted which makes everything very difficult. Cows are still going at it eagerly but it's tough going and clean up will suffer. Fencing is tough - not "driving through with bucket tipped forward", instead driving through with loader full up diff lock to the floor and ploughing with the front axle!
Cows are too well insulated underfoot so can go through a 5600kv fence, ran a second ground wire to remedy that. Not as good a system as bale grazing in such conditions but you can't plan on a weather anomaly. Like winter '13/'14 in Alberta its a real challenge whatever your system. Reply With Quote
Dec 31, 2016 | 10:42 8 Yes....its after that winter I started "rolling" my swath grazing into bales..... Reply With Quote
Jan 1, 2017 | 18:58 9 This is one of our more snowy ones in a while. Ours are down to the last three weeks of grazing and the snow is getting deep here too. Still managing, but some of those really stormy days kept them in the yard. Our biggest frustration this year was the mud last fall. Can't let them out in that. they waste too much. Swath grazing is a no go for us. Way too many deer here. Same with bale grazing. We get deer in the corn too, but there seems to be more to go around. The deer don't trash the corn like they would with a swath. Reply With Quote
Jan 2, 2017 | 07:54 10 How much snow have you had up there Kato and what is the most you've grazed corn through? I reckon we are about 3 1/2 feet now but it's hard to measure when it mostly comes horizontally rather than vertically! Got half a dozen deer in our corn but am more concerned about a herd of 200 elk that were seen not too far away - they were abandoning the hills where they usually winter as they are out of feed. We are trying to finish up our corn ASAP before conditions deteriorate any further. Reply With Quote
Jan 5, 2017 | 15:35 11 It varies. On the north side the snow is drifted in and almost as deep as the permanent electric wire that is there. Then it tapers to about a foot or two across the rest of the field. This is about as snowy as we've had it right now. It looks like they'll get through it just in time. Whatever they don't get is guaranteed deer feed. it would be all gone by spring cows or no cows.

We don't get elk, thank goodness. Deer are bad enough. Reply With Quote
Jan 5, 2017 | 18:25 12 Here is the SW corner of our remaining corn - like concrete. A bit softer on the rest but not much shallower - the tall cows go in first and the shorter legged follow them in,lol. Sure glad we never swathed it anyway.
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Jan 5, 2017 | 22:37 13
Quote Originally Posted by grassfarmer View Post
Here is the SW corner of our remaining corn - like concrete. A bit softer on the rest but not much shallower - the tall cows go in first and the shorter legged follow them in,lol. Sure glad we never swathed it anyway.
Is that a green tractor I see? We are pretty low on snow here yet. Would have been a perfect year to swath graze, but we rolled our greenfeed up early and had it piled up in the field since I planned to seed a winter crop. It then got too wet, so I have to unpile the bales back to their original positions to bale graze the stuff. We are grazing the corn standing, but I think it is a bit shy on grazing days. Reply With Quote
Jan 6, 2017 | 07:43 14
Quote Originally Posted by smcgrath76 View Post
Is that a green tractor I see?
Yeah it's the best the economics of cattle production allow for - coming up on it's 30th birthday and just had a rebuild at 18,000 hours. Reply With Quote
Jan 6, 2017 | 09:54 15
Wow! That's a lot of snow. Ours have worked their way out to the less sheltered end of the field now, so that may be working in our favour. Reply With Quote