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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Corn Residue an Option if Forage Supplies are Short

October 9, 2007

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With livestock forages, especially hay, still in short supply, feeding corn residue may help extend the grazing season. But, like other feeds, management is important.


"Corn harvest has started and the residue that is left in the field is not a bad feed for about 60 days after harvest," said Jeff McCutcheon, an Ohio State University Extension educator for Knox County.

One acre of corn residue can supply enough forage to sustain a 1,000-pound animal for as long as two months.

"The use of corn residue offers producers increased flexibility for fall and winter pasture and helps reduce overall feed costs," said McCutcheon. He added, however, that producers must keep in mind the palatability of the crop.

"The stalks are the least palatable portions of the corn plant. Livestock will selectively graze the most palatable portions of the residue first, starting with the grain, leaves and husks, and then the cobs and stalks," said McCutcheon. "Limiting access by strip grazing will allow for an increased stocking rate and greater utilization of the residue."

McCutcheon also recommends that cornfields be used immediately after harvest for 30-60 days to take maximum advantage of the feed value of the residue. This allows the permanent pastures to "stockpile" additional days of fall growth that could be grazed after the animals come off the cornfields.

Leaving corn residue in fields as a potential feed source for livestock also has fertilizer value.

"Corn stover contains a little phosphorus and moderate amounts of nitrogen and potassium," said Robert Mullen, an OSU Extension soil fertility specialist. "The actual amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, in a ton of corn stover are 16, 6, and 25 pounds, respectively. Corn stover also contains organic matter that when returned to the soil does have value."

To learn more about grazing corn residue, refer to OSU Extension's fact sheet at

Producers looking to bale corn residue and transport it should look at the economic feasibility from the standpoint of harvest and transportation costs.

Stan Smith, an OSU Extension program assistant for Fairfield County, suggested that when calculating costs on a "per consumable ton" basis, it might be more cost effective to feed shelled corn.

Feeding corn grain is the least expensive feedstuff per unit of digestible energy available to producers, and has twice the energy value of hay. However, because of the high-energy content, limiting corn to livestock is important to avoid excessive weight gain.

Steve Loerch, an Ohio State livestock researcher with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, has developed a limit-fed, corn-based nutrition program that has been tested with sheep and cattle. The procedure, used to meet the nutritional requirements of gestating and lactating cows, can be found by logging on to, and referring to "Corn as an alternative to hay for gestating and lactating beef cows."

In addition to forage alternatives, producers can ensure adequate livestock feed by effectively managing pastures. One management practice is to avoid overgrazing.

"Overgrazing could ruin next year's forage production," said McCutcheon. "Fall is a critical time for our cool season perennial forages. Cool season forages store reserve carbohydrates and use them to develop new tillers and roots. Carbohydrate storage and new tiller and root development can only happen if there is enough leaf area for photosynthesis."

McCutcheon recommends producers leave at least 1,200-1,500 pounds of dry matter per acre, or 2-3 inches of green forage when animals are pulled from the field. Additionally, the pasture should recover to above 2,400 pounds of dry matter per acre, or 6-8 inches of green forage before turning the animals back into a field.

"Overgrazing can be avoided by paying attention to forage residual, grazing time and rest," said McCutcheon. "We can also help our pastures by fertilizing. Fall is an excellent time to fertilize. Proper soil pH and adequate soil nutrients will enhance forage competitiveness."

For the latest information on forage production and forage management, log on to OSU Extension's Beef Team newsletter at


Candace Pollock
Jeff McCutcheon