Grazing Harvested Corn Residue, a Feed Alternative

Stan Smith, PA, OSU Extension, Fairfield County

With Ohio farmers expecting to harvest over 3 million acres of corn this fall, the potential for the brood cow herd feed supply being extended well into fall by utilizing crop residues is huge. Corn crop residue is practical for feeding dry, gestating beef cows in mid gestation providing they have average or better body condition. Managed correctly, one acre of corn residue can yield up to 60 animal unit grazing days (60 days of grazing for a 1000 pound animal).

Grazing “efficiency” will determine exactly how much feed is realized from corn residue. Moveable electric fencing can increase utilization up to 50% by allowing cattlemen to control the amount of area grazed thus, preventing the cattle from “selective” grazing or “trampling” many of the leaves or husks. “Strip” grazing the cows will also reduce the potential for acidosis in situations were there may have been excessive field losses of grain. Simply “dumping” the cows onto the entire corn field will be least efficient but will allow more residue to remain on the field over the winter for cover. Cattle will select and eat the grain first, then the husk and leaves, and finally the cobs and stalks.

Fields containing corn residues should be grazed soon after harvest for optimum quality, and fields with poor drainage or compaction problems should not be grazed for extended periods of time. Producers with a Conservation Plan should check with NRCS to be certain that the grazing of corn stalks does not violate the Plan.

If corn stalk fields are not presently fenced, temporary electric fencing is an economical alternative. Harvested corn fields can be encircled with a single strand of poly or high tensile wire supported with fiberglass posts for less than $10 per acre. Even if a fence charger must be purchased to allow the grazing of corn residue, up to 60 days per acre of feed may be provided a brood cow at a cost of under 20 cents/head per day. And, of course, the materials purchased to provide this temporary boundary may be reused from year to year, thus, making the “annual” cost of ownership even less.

Next week we’ll take a closer look at efficiently utilizing crop residue to feed the cow herd. In the mean time, see the OSU Extension Fact Sheet “Grazing Corn Residue” found at: for more detail.