Cornstalk grazing can benefit both livestock and crop producer
December 4, 2008
NORTH PLATTE, Neb. – The decision to graze cattle on cornstalks can provide a dilemma both for the livestock producer and the farmer who grows corn, said a University of Nebraska-Lincoln specialist.
If a rancher doesn’t have sufficient pasture, or if he or she wants to overwinter larger numbers, cornstalks can provide an alternative, said Matt Stockton, agricultural economist at UNL’s West Central Research and Extension center in North Platte. Research shows that cattle gain better on cornstalks than on winter range and usually, cornstalks are also less expensive, Stockton said.
If a producer’s pastures aren’t up to snuff, grazing cornstalks might be a way to reduce pressure on them.
Cropgrowers may have concerns about whether the cattle will remove nutrients needed for the next year’s crop, Stockton said. In this case, too, research shows that yields don’t change with cornstalk grazing. Although cattle will remove some of the dry matter, they will return nutrients to the soil in their manure. Cattle will only remove about 50 percent of the residue, he said.
It’s important not to leave cattle on the field too late in spring because wet weather might cause compaction. They shouldn’t be left on a particular field too long, either.
Stockton has produced an online tool for helping to calculate the costs and benefits of grazing cornstalks both to the rancher and the farmer. That decision aid can be found at agmanagerstools.com.
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Not only does the calculator consider the size of animals, cost per acre, and number of acres required, it also takes such costs as transportation and management into consideration in calculating the relative benefit of grazing cornstalks.
Cornstalk grazing can benefit both the rancher and the farmer, Stockton said. Proper management can make it a win-win for both parties.