Nebraska Farmer Perspectives on Grazing Corn Residue

Nebraska Farmer Perspectives on Grazing Corn Residue

March 1, 2016

Pie chart of survey respondents use of grazing corn residueChart of operation sizes of survey respondents
Figure 1. (left) Percent of farmers grazing corn residue with their own livestock, renting corn residue to others or not grazing corn residue.
Figure 2. Operation size of survey respondents.

Why do some farmers graze their corn residue while others choose not to? That question was the crux of a University of Nebraska-Lincoln survey to learn more about farmer perspectives on the topic.

The online survey was distributed to 545 farmers in January and February 2015 using a mailing list developed by UNL Extension educators.

Of the 108 farmers who responded to the survey, 42 did not graze their corn residue. Of the 66 farmers with corn residue being grazed,

  • 42 grazed only their own livestock,
  • 17 rented their residue, and
  • 7 both grazed their own livestock and rented corn residue to others.

The majority of acres managed by survey participants were under no-till management; 67% of those who did not graze and 56% of those who did graze used no-till on 80% to 100% of their acres.  The majority of participants directly managed 200 to 4000 acres (40 farmers managed 200 to 999 acres and 35 managed 1,000 and 3,999 acres). Distribution of farm size appeared to be similar among farmers who grazed corn residue and farmers who did not.

Pie chart of current & possible corn residue rental fees
Figure 3. Fee ($/ac) charged by those who rent out corn residue for grazing (left) and the fee that those who do not graze would want to allow grazing (right).

Corn Residue Rental Fee

Of the farmers who rented out their corn residue, the majority (41%) charged $11-$15 an acre.  Of the farmers who did not graze their corn residue, 48% reported they would not allow residue to be grazed regardless of the rental fee while 38% said they would be willing to rent their residue for $15 per acre or less.

Survey respondents perceived yield impact of grazing corn residue
Figure 4. Perceived impact of grazing corn residue on next seasons corn (left) and soybean (right) yield.

Perceptions on Impact to Subsequent Crop Yield

The majority of farmers (approximately 93% of farmers who currently graze and 63% of those who do not graze) reported that they thought grazing corn residue either had no impact or improved the next year’s corn or soybean yields.

Reasons for Not Grazing Corn Residue

Figure 5. Survey responses from farmers as to why they don't graze corn residue.

When non-grazers were asked why they did not graze their corn residue, 40% indicated that they felt grazing caused soil compaction. The perceived negative impact on their farming practices (no-till or ridge till) was selected by 33% of farmers not grazing corn residue. However, 93% of those who currently graze their corn residue reported they did not have to change their tillage or planting practices as a result of allowing cattle to graze.  Not being able to provide water to the cattle was cited by 31% of the farmers as a reason they did not graze.  Seven farmers (17%) said they didn’t graze due to a lack of livestock in the area.  


The majority (45%) of farmers who currently do not graze would be willing to rent their corn residue for grazing at a price ($15 per acre or less) which is in line with current rental rates.  However, 48% of farmers who did not graze said they would not allow grazing at any price. The top concern of farmers not grazing their corn residue was that it would cause soil compaction.

Mary Drewnoski, Beef Systems Specialist, Animal Science
Jordan Cox, Graduate Student, Animal Science
Jim MacDonald, Associate Professor of Animal Science, Ruminant Nutrition
Humberto Blanco, Associate Professor of Agronomy, Soil Management
Lisa Franzen-Castle, Nutrition Specialist, Nutrition and Health Science
Rick Rasby, Beef Specialist, Animal Science


Online Master of Science in Agronomy

With a focus on industry applications and research, the online program is designed with maximum flexibility for today's working professionals.

A field of corn.