Grazing Corn Stalks in No-till Fields - UNL CropWatch, Sept. 20, 2012

Grazing Corn Stalks in No-till Fields - UNL CropWatch, Sept. 20, 2012

September 20, 2012

Grazing corn stalks is of major importance to Nebraska’s beef cattle industry, particularly this year, and can be compatible with no-till crop production.

In a corn-soybean rotation study conducted from 1996 to 2011, the effects on yields of the following crop were determined for fall-winter grazing (November to February) and spring grazing (February to mid-April, the time of greatest concern of compaction by animal traffic on thawed and wet soil). The field was irrigated. Three treatments (fall/winter grazed, spring grazed, and ungrazed) have been maintained in the same area since 1996. Stocking was with yearlings at 2.5 times the normal level since 2000.

Table 1. The effect of fall-winter and spring grazing of corn stalks on average yield of the following crop.

Study years Following crop Spring grazed yield, bu/ac Fall grazed yield, bu/ac Ungrazed yield, bu/ac

1996-2011 Soybeans 61.7 62.4 60.4
Corn* 207 209 206

 *The corn yield was for the second crop after grazing.

On average, yield of the following soybean crop was increased by about 2 bu/ac with fall-winter grazing, and 1.3 bu/ac with spring grazing, compared with no grazing of corn stalks (Table 1). Yield of corn as the second crop after grazing was not significantly affected (Table 1).

The results of this study, other studies conducted from 1993 to 1995 at the ARDC, and research currently being conducted near Brule will be reported in the 2013 Nebraska Beef Cattle Report. These additional studies, including a dryland trial, had no significant effect of grazing on mean grain yield for the following crop which was corn, soybean, or grain sorghum.

Grazing corn stalks is compatible with no-till management in eastern Nebraska and probably is for irrigated fields throughout the state with no loss in average grain yield expected. With wet soil conditions in the spring, consider removing cattle from the field or taking other steps management steps to minimize the effect of compaction.

Charles Wortmann
Extension Soils Specialist
Terry Klopfenstein
Professor of Animal Science
Aaron Stalker
Extension Beef Range Systems Specialist