Meeting Nutritional Needs with Grazed Corn Fodder

Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Agricultural and Natural Resources Educator, Crawford County (originally published in Farm and Dairy)

Properly managed, crop residue can provide an inexpensive feed source for 60+ days.

Utilizing corn fodder residue for livestock to graze to meet their nutritional needs is a less expensive option than buying or utilizing your own stored forages. Crop residue can provide an inexpensive feed source for 65-111 days into the winter. Beef cattle can successfully graze corn residue through 4 to 6 inches of snow cover. The cows will not be able to graze stalk field that get covered in ice.

When grazing residue, the livestock will be selective grazers, first eating the grain they can find followed by husks and leaves, leaving the cobs and stalks for last. Under normal conditions there is about 1 bushel of grain per acre in the field. Increased grain can be present when there is excessive header losses or the crop goes down due to weather conditions. Excessive amounts of grain present or piles do to an equipment break down can cause grain overload that could result in bloat or death in livestock. Typically, this is not a problem unless there is more than 8-10 bushels per acre of corn on the ground. When the cows are able to graze husks, leaves, and a very small amount of grain they are able to consume a diet consisting of 52 to 55 percent total digestible nutrients (TDN) and a 5-5.5 percent crude protein diet.

Stocking density and grazing method greatly effects the Continue reading

Developing a Winter Feeding Program

Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

Winter feed costs are the largest single expense in most livestock grazing production systems.  Extending the grazing to reduce the cost of feeding stored feed will greatly increase profits.  Labor can be reduced 25% or more.  Rotational grazing takes about three hours per acre per year as opposed to hay production, which takes seven hours per acre per year.  The cost for grazing a cow per day is $.25 compared to $1.00 per day to feed hay to a cow.

The first step is to evaluate the potential, available, existing feed.  Crop residue can be an abundant winter feed.  Corn stalks can maintain a spring calving cow in good body condition for about 60 days after corn harvest.  The feed value will decline quickly after the 60-day period.  Cattle will select and eat grain, then husks and leaves, and last cobs and stalks.  Strip grazing increases utilization, rations the feed, and reduces the need for supplementation.  The crop fields should be grazed so that Continue reading

When All Else Fails, Read the Feeding Instructions

– Jeff Lehmkuhler, PhD, PAS, Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

This is the time of year when calves are starting to come to market. Backgrounders and fall stocker programs are buying lightweight feeders for their operations. Some operations in consultation with their veterinarians may obtained a veterinary feed directive (VFD) for medicated feed to help in the prevention or treatment of bovine respiratory disease (BRD). Medicated feeds are a tool in the toolbox and managers should familiarize themselves with the use of such tools.

A common feed medication is chlortetracycline (CTC). This feed grade antibiotic can be used for a variety of disorders. The feed additive is labeled for use for the control of anaplasmosis, reduction of liver abscesses, control of bacterial pneumonia associated with shipping fever (i.e. BRD) and treatment of bacterial enteritis caused by E. coli. Would it surprise you to learn then that there are different target doses for the control or treatment of these disorders?

For the control of bacterial pneumonia in feeder calves, the approved label dose is 350 mg/hd/d. “Control” is essentially the dose to help calves to avoid serious infection whereas “treatment” is the dose to treat active infections in sick calves. The approved treatment dose for feeder calves is Continue reading

Does corn silage fed to feedlot cattle need to be kernel processed?

Jerad Jaborek, Michigan State University Extension Beef Feedlot Systems Educator

Processing corn silage can improve corn kernel damage and increase starch digestibility when fed to cattle; however, the expected increase in feedlot performance may be minimal.

It’s that time of year again when corn across the Midwest is beginning to reach the ideal maturity needed to produce corn silage. Many producers often question how they can produce the highest yielding or quality crop. A review by Johnson and others in the Journal of Dairy Science report that mechanically processing your corn silage may be an option to improve the quality or feeding value of your corn silage crop. More information regarding corn silage can be found on the Michigan State University Extension corn website.

Fully active mechanical processors are most common and consist of two counter rotating rollers located between the cutterhead and the blower of the harvester. The grooved or serrated rollers crush or shear the corn silage as it passes between the two rollers with a space typically ranging from 1 to 5 mm. However, additional energy (7 to 15%) is required and there is a reduced . . .

Continue reading Does corn silage fed to feedlot cattle need to be kernel processed?

Science based weaning methods for beef calves

– Kirsten Nickles, Graduate Research Associate and Anthony J. Parker, Associate Chair and Associate Professor. Department of Animal Sciences, Ohio State University

Weaning strategy should be designed to reduce stress in order to avoid BRD (photo credit:

Weaning is the start of an independent life for the beef calf. Though weaning can be a stressful time for the calf, beef cattle producers can minimize the stress at weaning by using science based weaning methods. A negative weaning experience can be a catalyst for disease and death in feeder calves, however, a positive weaning experience can help minimize disease and stress through the marketing system.

The most common weaning strategy in the U.S. beef industry is the abrupt removal of calves from their dams at approximately 180-220 days of age (Rasby, 2007). Abrupt weaning is not a good weaning method because it places a great deal of stress on the calf. The immediate cessation of milk in the diet of a calf and the complete maternal separation associated with abrupt weaning are often exacerbated by other stressors that have negative effects on the calf. An unfamiliar environment, a new diet, transportation, co-mingling with unfamiliar calves, and pain from husbandry practices such as castration while also being denied social contact and care by the cow will stress a calf. When calves undergo prolonged periods of stress they are predisposed to disease and Continue reading

Corn silage for the beef herd

– Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler, Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

It is hard to believe that it is near that time of year when corn will start to be harvested for silage. We have been fortunate in many areas of the region to receive timely precipitation providing for good corn stands. As the price of corn is still over $6/bushel on the spot market and the futures prices is in the mid 5’s, folks are asking about corn silage as an alternative feed this year.

When considering corn silage, first be sure that you are prepared. In many situations the harvest equipment may not be owned, and a custom harvest crew will come to chop and haul the silage. You need to get on their schedule and understand that weather and breakdowns can impact the harvest window for your corn crop. How do you plan to store the silage? For many beef operations, a silo bag is often the best choice. Again, the bagger will likely have to be rented and bags purchased. Be sure to get the bagger rented for sufficient time to fit the harvest window. Prepare the site for bags or drive over piles to ensure they drain well and water is diverted away from them. You don’t want to be driving through mud when trying to feed out silage from a pile or bag.

Corn will be ready to harvest when the whole plant moisture level is 62-65% or 35-38% dry matter. Fields will continue to dry down during the harvest and it is better to start harvest a bit wetter, so the last part of the field doesn’t get too dry. Corn that is less than 60% moisture should be Continue reading

To Crack or Not to Crack, A Common Question

– Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler, Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

As grain and commodity prices shoot up, beef producers begin to look for other feedstuffs to find bargains. In many cases, there are no bargains to be found as commodity brokers know the value of the feeds they market. However, occasional opportunities do present themselves from plant shutdowns, shipping issues, and other various reasons. Yet, many folks look past the common feeds available such as corn, oats, wheat, distillers grains and other local feedstuffs hoping to save a few dollars. Corn is a constant in our area and should always be considered as an energy source in ruminant diets.

One of the first questions I get when I start talking about feeding corn to beef cattle producers is whether it has to be cracked or ground. Seems like an easy question with a simple answer. However, the impact of grain processing has been studied for decades and continues to be researched. The hammer mill was invented in 1840 to process grains for feeding. Flaking of corn was developed in 1962 to gelatinize starch and increase efficiency. Reviews on grain processing were presented in papers dating back almost 50 years by the National Research Council. Yet today, research continues to investigate the impact of grain processing on cattle performance.

A review paper on grain processing published around 25 years ago summarized research of finishing cattle and the impact of grain processing. Similar daily gains were noted when corn was fed whole or cracked. Intakes were slightly lower improving feed efficiency when grain was left whole. Ohio researchers published a paper in 2020 in which dry rolled corn was Continue reading

Value of Baler Preservative Applicator

Baler mounted liquid preservative applicators may be more affordable than you think. Photo credit: CropCare (Used with permission)

Do you think baler preservative applicators are too expensive or too complicated? They are more affordable and simpler than you may think. With the challenges that come with making dry hay, it may be a change you can’t afford not to make.

Anyone that bales dry hay has had to chase a field of hay in before the rain comes. Many times the hay is almost fit to bale but it is a little tough and you bale it and hope it doesn’t mold. These are the times you think, if I only had a preservative applicator on the baler, I could bale this and shouldn’t have any problems. Then you think, they are too expensive for me as I only bale a couple thousand small square bales a year. Think again!

You can buy a basic 25-gallon baler liquid applicator for around . . .

Continue reading Value of Baler Preservative Applicator

Meeting Cow Nutrient Requirements in the Winter Starts in the Spring

– Dr. Katie VanValin, Assistant Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

When the weather forecast calls for a few days of clear skies this time of year, it is a safe bet that many producers are hitting the hay fields to get hay put up to feed their herd this winter. When thinking about the hay requirements for a herd, I often hear discussions about the number of bales required. However, focusing on the number of bales alone is like only looking at half of the picture. Cattle have nutrient (energy and protein) requirements, not a bale requirement. So really, at the end of the day, it won’t be a certain number of bales that maintain the cowherd at a BCS 5 or greater. Instead, supplying enough pounds of total digestible nutrients (TDN) or energy and pounds of crude protein will meet the cow’s nutrient requirements. The exact amount of TDN and crude protein required depends on several factors such as stage of production, environmental factors, and mature cow size, to name a few.

The single most significant factor that impacts forage quality or the nutrient content and digestibility of the forage is the stage of maturity at harvest. As the plant matures, the leaf to stem ratio decreases, which means a greater concentration of fiber (a portion of which is undigestible) and decreased protein concentrations. Unfortunately, when cool-season forages are rapidly growing in the spring, it can be easy to miss the optimal stage of maturity to capitalize on forage quality. Weather can also have a significant Continue reading

Feeding Cull Cows; Exploring the opportunity for additional income with Dr. Steve Boyles

Significant returns to a cow-calf operation are from selling cull cows, with most culls being sold in the fall when prices are traditionally at their lowest. In this 12 minute presentation, OSU Extension Beef Specialist Steve Boyles explains the considerations necessary for making the decision to feed cull cows in an effort to sell them into a more profitable time slot.