I was out of the office yesterday and noticed that many corn and soybean fields are turning brown. One field of beans was actually out! Many producers have poorer than normal pastures due to overgrazing last fall, this spring, and this fall. It is what it is!
Nevertheless there are still a couple of opportunities out there. Corn residue can provide you with extra gazing days without delving into your hay reserves.
Corn residues normally are best utilized within 60 days of harvest and also allocated out in portions to reduce waste. In general, corn stalks have a crude protein value of about 8 percent and a total digestible nutrient value of about 70 percent. The nutritional value falls over time to about 5 percent crude protein and to about 40 percent digestibility. This reduction can be two-fold. First, if livestock are not managed to allocate the residue out over time, they will eat the husks and corn first which is the most palatable, and leave the stalks for later. Second, nutrient content decreases over time as the residue weathers and soluble nutrients leach out. Stalks are best utilized for spring calving cows due to lack of sufficient energy for lactating or growing animals, especially over time, unless winter annuals or brassicas have been added.
Corn stalks should be stocked at the rate of 1,000 pounds live weight per acre per 30 days. Most corn produces about 56 pounds of residue per bushel, but keep in mind it can vary a lot. A 200 bushel corn crop should yield about 11,000 pounds of residue. Of that residue, about 40 percent is leaf and husk, the part that is most readily consumed. Thus, there is about 4,400 pounds of desirable grazable fodder available or about 75 animal unit days at 50 percent harvest efficiency; and yes, they are going to waste some. One animal unit, which is 1,000 pound live weight, will consume about 3 percent of their weight in dry matter per day or roughly 30 pounds of fodder. You can do your own math from there using your livestock numbers and acres that can be grazed. Certainly, if annuals are also part of the picture, then there is even more available.
Refrain from feeding any supplements or hay in crop fields or leave livestock in the field over extended time frames, especially under wet conditions to prevent compaction issues the next crop year.