Grazing corn residues is an economical means of extending grazing and decreasing reliance on stored feeds during the winter months. Cattle are inherently selective grazers and therefore consume the grain, husk, leaves, cobs, and stalks in that order. This selective grazing leads to greater grain consumption early in the grazing period.
Due to selective grazing, fields containing greater than Eight to 12 bushels per acre of grain can lead to excess grain consumption, which can result in acidosis and founder. The amount of grain in the field can be affected by plant variety, harvest efficiency, and weather damage. Weather damage significantly increases the amount of down grain due to wind and hail knocking the whole plant down or knocking ears off the plant making harvest of these grains impossible. These grains can’t be harvested for grain production, but they can be harvested by livestock providing a feed source during the winter months.
The challenge with utilizing fields with large amounts of grain is minimizing the risk of acidosis and founder. Some management practices to decrease these risks are:
- Graze only a few hours a day.
- Strip grazing.
- Provide sodium bicarbonate in the water.
- Feed hay prior to and during early grazing.
These practices will reduce the risk of acidosis and founder, but require added labor, management, and stored feed sources.
An alternative solution is drenching cattle with Lactipro (MS Biotec, Wamego KS) prior to turning
them out onto high-grain crop residues. Lactipro contains a viable patented strain of Megasphaera elsdenii, which utilizes lactic acid in the rumen. Lactic acid is produced in the rumen when highly-fermentable feedstuffs are consumed and can be problematic if cattle are not accustomed to consuming highly-fermentable feedstuffs as is typically the case when cattle are turned out onto crop residues. Accumulation of lactic acid decreases rumen pH and leads to disorders such as acidosis and founder. Drenching cattle with Lactipro introduces a population of Megasphaera elsdenii capable of utilizing the lactic acid and preventing its accumulation, decreasing the risk of acidosis and founder.
Grazing fields with large amounts of grain provides an economic means to winter cattle and gives value to grain that otherwise would be a waste. The additional grain increases the nutrient value of the crop residue which may delay the need for supplementation and further decrease your requirement for stored feeds. Despite these advantages care must be taken early in the grazing period to reduce the risk of acidosis and founder that are associated with overconsumption of grains.
If you’re tired of the extra management involved with turning cattle out on high-grain crop residues, or want more information, visit the MS Biotec website.