Grower sold on economics of corn grazing

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frenchie

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Grower sold on economics of corn grazing
this document web posted: Wednesday August 10, 2005 20050811p65

By Ian Bell
Brandon bureau

STE. ROSE, Man. - Dean Gamache counts himself among the converted when it comes to using corn to extend the grazing season for cattle.

He recalls being skeptical when he and his father-in-law Tony Guillas were approached a few years ago about trying it on their farm. He especially questioned whether there would be enough benefit to justify the added input costs, particularly for the fertilizer.

"I was the guy saying it wouldn't work, but it worked really well," said Gamache, who shared his experiences during the Manitoba provincial grazing tour held in late July.

"It's by far one of the best management decisions we ever made."

Gamache and Guillas were already extending their grazing season by growing barley and oats and then swathing them for their cattle to graze after the regular pasture season.

Although the swath grazing proved beneficial, they found it could not compare to grazing their cattle on corn left standing in the field.

"You can graze a lot more head on an acre of corn than on barley or oats, consistently," Gamache said.

The cattle typically begin grazing the corn in early November. About 55 acres are usually enough to last 180 cows until at least early January.

The cattle are then fed hay but can still forage on whatever corn remains. The calving season starts in mid-April.

Portable electric fences are used to divide the corn crop into paddocks for grazing. Gamache and Guillas like to move their cattle to a new paddock every five to six days. Smaller paddocks help ensure the cattle clean up most of the corn, including the stalks.

The cattle typically eat the corn cobs first, then the leaves and finally the stalks.

"It's actually harder on the cowboy than it is on the cows to get started at this," said Gamache, noting the need to withstand the sorrowful look in the cattle's eyes when the cobs are gone and only the stalks remain.

They push the cattle to clean up more of the corn during stretches of milder winter weather, but are not as demanding when temperatures turn biting cold.

Shelter is available to the cattle in the event of harsh weather.

Gamache and Guillas have tried a number of corn varieties and found that Canamaize works best. Gamache said its stalks tend to be smaller than those of other varieties, making it easier for cattle to eat most of the plant and reducing the amount of residue left in the field to be managed the following spring.

"We're really satisfied with the Canamaize but that doesn't mean we won't try anything new."

Gamache is confident that grazing cattle on standing corn costs less than growing and harvesting hay for winter feeding.

It also eliminates the need to haul hay bales to cattle during the first months of winter. Another benefit is that manure and urine go onto the field rather than accumulating in a wintering pen.

When planting the corn, Gamache and Guillas do not fertilize for maximum yields. They prefer to strive for reasonable yields without "pouring the nitrogen" to the crop.

For example, soil tests this year suggested they should apply 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre of corn, but they opted for 50 lb. per acre instead.

"If you put 50 lb. on you're going to get a crop," Gamache said.

"If you take care of that crop, if you get rid of the weeds and do it that way, then you're going to get your money back. Maybe you're not going to get the maximum production, but that's just fine. You don't need maximum production to make it pay."




© The Western
 

JHH

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frenchie,
Very dry here,will not have enough hay for year,we do not row crop but have available 13 acres of corn (standing) that we could buy, would this be enough for 20 cows?Have never had to do anything like this before.Just turn cows in small lots of fenced off corn?New to this any suggetions?Price of corn per acre about $60.00. like I said very dry and crops arent much.
Thanks for any info.JHH
 
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frenchie

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JHH":1n77sh5x said:
frenchie,
Very dry here,will not have enough hay for year,we do not row crop but have available 13 acres of corn (standing) that we could buy, would this be enough for 20 cows
Have never had to do anything like this before.Just turn cows in small lots of fenced off corn?New to this any suggetions?Price of corn per acre about $60.00. like I said very dry and crops arent much.
Thanks for any info.JHH

It depends how bad the crop it is.Any idea on the tonnage of the crop.

The guys up here strip graze their corn .You need to have a good fencer to do this. They force the cows to clean it up right down to the stocks.The cows are removed about a month before calving.



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Stocker Steve

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$60 per acre is very cheap for corn. Check the web for ways to estimate the tons per acre and moisture level, assume the cattle will eat 60% of it, and then calculate the $ per lb. of dry matter.

I can grow grazing corn for less than the price of good hay most years. My green corn cost is in the the range of U$S 0.020 to U$S 0.025 per pound of dry matter. Just think of it as a warm season grass.
 
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frenchie

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Stocker Steve":g2fmx6bt said:
$60 per acre is very cheap for corn. Check the web for ways to estimate the tons per acre and moisture level, assume the cattle will eat 60% of it, and then calculate the $ per lb. of dry matter.

I can grow grazing corn for less than the price of good hay most years. My green corn cost is in the the range of U$S 0.020 to U$S 0.025 per pound of dry matter. Just think of it as a warm season grass.

Do you grow the Roundup Ready varieties.
 

ChrisB

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JHH,

If it is an option for you, you may want to consider chopping the corn for silage. 13 acres should be more than enough to get through the winter.

Strip grazing would be the cheapest way to go though.
 

Arnold Ziffle

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FWIW, anybody that is considering grazing standing dry corn that grew up extremely drought stressed may want to consider having it tested for nitrate poison. I imagine that Prussic acid poisoning should't be a problem since it dissipates over a relatively short period of time.

Also, consider the possibility of aflatoxin in the drought stressed corn ears. I can't remember if aflatoxin continues to be a problem after corn has gotten "old" and completely dried out on the stalk, but it can sure be a problem for corn that is harvested in the traditional manner, at normal moisture levels. As I recall, aflatoxin in drought stressed corn is more common if certain types or worms hit the ears, can't remember which kind of worms though.
 

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frenchie":1h002jd9 said:
Stocker Steve":1h002jd9 said:
$60 per acre is very cheap for corn. Check the web for ways to estimate the tons per acre and moisture level, assume the cattle will eat 60% of it, and then calculate the $ per lb. of dry matter.

I can grow grazing corn for less than the price of good hay most years. My green corn cost is in the the range of U$S 0.020 to U$S 0.025 per pound of dry matter. Just think of it as a warm season grass.

Do you grow the Roundup Ready varieties.

I think Roundup Ready is a rip off unless you have a major grass problem. I (usually) grow conventional corn. I have also experimented with more tillage and no herbicide - - the good news is that cattle eat the grasses!!!, the bad news is that the corn can get choked out if you have a rainy spell and can not get on the field.
 
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frenchie

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Susie David":oupjqj84 said:
I wonder how much condition is lost while they are pushed to clean up the stalks....DMc

You need to remember that these guys are grazing in snow, and in all likelyhood there is likely 12-18 inches of stock left.They usually give them enough for 3 days.Last day is clean up.These cows don,t lose much condition at all.
 

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Susie David":2w2ufchv said:
I wonder how much condition is lost while they are pushed to clean up the stalks....DMc


Some guys graze "standing corn". They combine a couple passes and then leave a pass stand to provide more grazing energy than just stalks and chaff.
 

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Thanks for the info and replies.Found someone willing to sell some hay last night but it is small square bales.Guess I will have to get up earlier to feed.Sure beats nothing at all.Thanks again,JHH
 

Stocker Steve

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We got over 5" of rain in the last two weeks and things are greening up. If looks like we will not need to graze all of the corn we planted for the summer slump, but that is OK. We make money grazing corn, but we can usually break even if we are forced to combine it.
 

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Dealing with Drought:
Drought-stricken corn can be grazed with caution; chopping it for feed is riskier, MU specialist warns

Aug. 8, 2005 — With plentiful supplies of drought-stricken corn and a shortage of pasture for grazing livestock, many farmers think of green-chopping their corn that won’t make grain.

That is like playing with dynamite, warns a University of Missouri (MU) forage agronomist. Feeding high-nitrate greenchop to cattle is extremely risky.

“We’ll be getting calls from farmers who have cattle with four legs in the air,” says Rob Kallenbach, Extension agronomist. Corn that doesn’t make a full ear can build nitrates in the stalks because there is no water to move nitrogen into the kernels. For greenchop, a silage cutter is used to harvest all of the corn plant, including stalks with leaves and whatever ears develop.

Nitrates can poison livestock, Kallenbach says. However, if the corn is chopped and stored in a silage wagon, even for a short time, the nitrate turns into the more deadly nitrite.

“Nitrites are about a hundred times more poisonous than nitrates,” Kallenbach says. “Nitrites kill quickly by blocking oxygen in the bloodstream.”

He describes a typical scenario for disaster: A farmer chops a load of corn in the evening and then allows the feed to sit on the wagon overnight before feeding it the next day. In that time, nitrates convert to nitrites.

With caution, drought corn can be used for livestock feed, Kallenbach says, if animals are allowed to do the selecting. “This is where simpler is better,” he says. A small section of a cornfield is divided off with a single strand of electric fence and the cows are turned in to graze. Left on their own, cows will graze the upper leaves, the husks and whatever corn is available. In most cases, the nitrate is stored in the thick lower stalks, which are less palatable.

Unless forced to eat the entire cornstalk, cows will avoid the poisonous lower part of the plant, Kallenbach says.

No great expense is involved in strip-grazing a cornfield, Kallenbach says. It requires an electric fence charger, some step-in fence posts, and a roll of polywire or electric fencing.

A one-day supply of feed is fenced off, and the cattle are moved to fresh feed each day by moving the fence further down the field.

“A farmer can quickly determine the amount of feed to fence off by observing how much was eaten the first day,” Kallenbach says. Some producers limit grazing of drought corn on the first day. Cows are allowed into the corn for a couple of hours at first, then grazing time gradually is increased.

To build the grazing paddock, Kallenbach recommends running an ATV or tractor down through the cornfield to knock down cornstalks. That makes it easier to build an electric fence without it shorting out on the corn. Downed corn also allows cows to see the hot wire.

The same grazing practice can be used for a soybean field that doesn’t set pods. Soybeans make very good forage, almost as good as alfalfa in nutrition, the forage specialist says, noting soybeans originally were imported to this country as a hay crop.

Large areas of central and northeast Missouri have crop fields that did not set seed because of heat and dry weather at pollination time. “Often the first thought is to chop that damaged corn for feed or for silage,” Kallenbach says. “But it is a lot less expensive to allow the livestock to harvest the feed.” Cornfields can be grazed into winter.

Before grazing any crop fields, check the label on any herbicide used for weed control, warns Kevin Bradley, MU Extension weed specialist.

For atrazine, a corn herbicide, the label reads “do not graze or feed forage from treated areas for 60 days following application.” Roundup Ready® corn treated with glyphosate requires a minimum wait of 50 days.

For soybeans, the glyphosate restriction is 14 days. Some corn post-emergence herbicides require only a 30-day wait. “As always, read the label,” Bradley says.

Most county MU Extension centers have nitrate test kits for checking suspect corn. An MU guide sheet, “Warm Season Annual Forages,” G4661, has details on feeding high-nitrate forages. Publications are available at Extension centers or by calling MU publications at 1-800-292-0969.


— This release provided by MU Extension.
 

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