Rasby encourages producer to consider cornstalk grazing as an feed optionWritten by Gayle Smith
According to Rick Rasby, University of Nebraska extension beef specialist, cornstalks can provide valuable, nutritious feed for pregnant cows and backgrounded calves during the winter months.
For producers considering grazing cows on cornstalks for the first time, Rasby recommends talking with an extension agent or other producers to locate cornfields that are available to rent for grazing and how much they are worth in that area. Many corn residue fields are located far from where cows reside, so ranchers may need to find someone reliable to manage their cattle on these fields, he said.
“Once you have them sourced, I would make sure to have the contact information for the farmer who owns the crop residue, as well as the owner of the residue field,” he said. “Also, you will want the contact information if there is a third party individual that has rented several cornstalks in an area, and is making them available for grazing.”
Producers may also want contact information for a veterinarian in the area in case the cattle become sick.
Once a rancher has found a source, it is important to determine how the stalks will be rented. Typically, cornstalks are rented by the acre, but Rasby expects some fields will be rented by the day this year.
“When you rent by the acre, you have them for the grazing season,” he explained. “When you rent by the day, you pay for them as long as the cornstalks are available.”
Rasby said producers may also want to include a termination clause in the agreement in case the lease needs to be terminated for a good reason, such as water issues.
The Extension Specialist said the rancher should work with the person they are renting the cornstalks from to determine an entry and removal date, which is the amount of time the cornstalks will actually be grazed.
“This is a function of corn yield,” Rasby explained.
The length of time the cornstalks can be grazed can be determined by using a tool located on the University of Nebraska beef website, beef.unl.edu, under learning modules.
“The cornstalk Cow-Q-Lator determines days of grazing based on corn yield,” Rasby said.
Rasby said producers should also work out payment, when it is to be made and how it is paid. Other factors that are important and should be covered in the lease are as follows:
- Who is responsible for checking the cattle and how often should they be checked?
- Who will build and maintain the fence?
- Who checks the water, and breaks the ice during the winter?
- Who supplies the salt and mineral, and any supplement, and who refills it and how often?
- If the cattle get out, who will gather them?
- Will the cattle be co-mingled with other cattle?
- Who is responsible for treating sick cattle?
- Is there an emergency feed source in case the cornstalks are buried by snow, who supplies it, and where is it located?
- Who is responsible for trucking or moving the cattle once the cornfield has been utilized?
While cornstalk grazing can be a viable solution for producers with the current feed situation, it is important to carefully consider all potential factors in setting up lease arrangements.