More cattle producers are looking at grazing whole plant corn as a viable winter feeding option.
Corn is a crop that grows up to three times the biomass of small grain cereals on less land. It also exceeds the nutrient requirements of a beef cow in her first and second trimester of pregnancy.
Cattle can be selective when grazing corn, picking out the tastier parts of the plant (the cob), which has a lot of starch. Too much starch can result in rumen acidosis.
The Western Beef Development Centre has done some research looking at three vs. nine-day allocation of feed with or without a fibre source. The fibre source may be an older hay, lower quality hay, or maybe a straw bale to help mitigate the risk for rumen acidosis and buffer the rumen to prevent the pH from dropping and causing digestive upsets. Some of the research suggests adding a fibre source while cows are grazing whole plant corn and maybe limiting them to that 3-4 day allocation.
Research Scientist Dr. Bart Lardner suggests giving cows about 7 to 10 days for the rumen to adjust to the difference in ration.
He also recommends cattle producer using grazing corn for the first time should talk to agronomy experts or other producers in advance. Starting small is also a good way to ensure you get the most ''bang for your buck."
Corn is a high input cost crop but research at the Western Beef Development Centre has shown that you are able to reduce cow costs per day grazing corn compared to tradition dry-lot systems.
More information will be presented during a free webinar during the evening of Thursday, October 12. The webinar will also be archived for later viewing.