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What producers need to know about corn stalk grazing

December 15, 2018

Hay there everyone, this is Crop Talk with Dr. Megan Taylor your local friendly agronomist with Nebraska extension serving Platte, Boone and Nance counties.

I hope everyone is having a great start to the holiday season. From around the counties harvest has wrapped up and many producers are planning for next year. This week I wanted to switch gears and talk more about grazing corn stalks in snow and the after thawing.

With winter upon us, snow and ice can cause issues for cattle grazing corn stalks. Cattle that are out on corn stalks have been shown to be able to successfully graze cornstalks under 4-6 inches of snow. Snowfall, above the 6-inch level can cause issues for our cattle. Their ability to dig and forage for residue declines as snow totals 6 inches. The other consideration is when snow melts and re-freezes forming an ice layer over the corn stalks, the cattle have difficulty grazing. If you are concerned about ice or significant snow cover, giving supplemental feed during these weather events is crucial.

It is recommended to scout fields after rainfall, snow or melting. The added moisture causes issues, stalks get soiled or trampled into the ground when fields are muddy causing quicker breakdown. This fall and summer we have had surplus moisture. Changes the eye can’t see are nutritional, when moisture soaks into dry corn stalk residue, soluble nutrients can be leached.

Most serious is the loss of sugars and other energy-dense nutrients which lowers the TDN or energy value of the stalks. These same nutrients also disappear if stalks begin to mold or rot in the field or especially in the bale decreasing palatability and uptake. Prevention is difficult but beginning to supplement a little earlier than usual can help.

Since weathering by moisture decreases TDN more than it reduces protein, consider the energy value of your supplements as well as its protein content. Weathered corn stalks still are economical feeds, just supplement as needed.

There is a Confronting Crop Challenges Clinic being offered in Columbus at Ag Park from 1-4 p.m. Dec. 18. This clinic will cover emerging pest, disease management, updated herbicide information and research. This clinic will feature a recertification for private pesticide license only. New applicators will have to wait until January and February to certify. The cost is $50 for the combination pesticide training and clinic. To register head to http://croptechcafe.org/registration.

Join me next week to learn more about cover crops and spring nitrogen. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at 402-563-4901, mtaylor42@unl.edu, or follow me on twitter at @CropTalkMegan. Have a great weekend!

Megan Taylor is an agronomist with Nebraska Extension serving Platte, Boone and Nance counties.

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