2002 Annual Report

Beef Section

Dickinson Research Extension Center
1089 State Avenue
Dickinson, ND 58601

Utilization of extended grazing periods to increase
the net
value of cow/calf enterprise

James L Nelson, Dr. Woodrow Poland, Garry Ottmar

Dickinson Research-Extension Center
North Dakota State University


Introduction

Western North Dakota produces a variety of forages that can be utilized for late fall and early winter grazing when daily nutrient demands are relatively low. Grazing corn with stock cows in North Dakota offers the potential to: extend the grazing season, eliminate or reduce manure handling and minimize feeding labor and expense. Investment in both harvesting and feeding equipment is minimized when cows do the harvesting. The residual stalk residue acts as a snow trap and helps reduce both wind and water erosion. To be successful, cattle need access to adequate water and protection from wind during extreme cold weather and blizzards. One negative aspect of corn grazing is the potential for cattle to founder due to excessive levels of grain in the ration.

A rotation of corn and small grains has proven beneficial for sustained crop production. Modern corn production that incorporates: no-till planting, herbicide based weed control, and varieties bred for disease resistance and lodging has produced good yields with minimum labor input.

Materials and Methods

A twenty-eight acre plot of land approximately one half mile south of the DREC Ranch Headquarters was split into two- 14 acre fields, orientated in an east-west direction. A barbed wire fence divides the fields into an East and West fields.

Using a corn-oat rotation, one field was seeded to oats and harvested for hay at the soft dough stage of maturity. The other field was planted to corn. In May, 2001the fields were tilled with a Summers diamond heavy disc (two operations). Following tillage, corn was planted using a Model 400 4-row IH Cyclo Planter on May 7, 2001. The corn was planted in 36" rows at a population of approximately 20,000 kernels per acre. The West field was planted with Pioneer Seed corn (variety 38R21) with a relative maturity of 92 days. This seed was priced at $68.70/ 80K bag. The East field was planted with Pioneer seed corn (variety 39D81) with an 84 day maturity rating.. This variety was priced at $98.90 per 80K bag. Both fields were fertilized with 90 lbs of a (9N-39P-15K-3Zn) fertilizer blend applied at planting in a band that was beside and below the seed. Weed control was initiated on June 6,when both fields were sprayed with a herbicide mix of Accent (nicosulfuron) @ 1/3 oz/A, North Star (39.9% dicamba @ 4 oz/A, crop Oil (1 qt/A) and ammonium sulfate (1 qt/A). Chemical cost per acre totaled $25.23 / A plus an application cost of $3.50/A. See table 5 for cost breakdown for tillage, seeding, fertilization and spraying.

On October 26, 2001, the fields were sampled for plant material and grain production. Using paired rows of corn each 14.52' long, one row was cut approximately 3-4" above the ground and tied into a bundle while the other row was hand picked, bagged and labeled. Eight paired row samples (1/1000 of an acre) were collected from each field. Plant height was also recorded . The samples were returned to the main station, weighed and processed. Chopped samples of the whole corn plant material were obtained by processing randomly chosen whole stalks through a small, portable brush chipper. After chopping, the samples were mixed and then a sub-sample was selected, weighed, and placed in a drying oven. After drying, the samples were reweighed and percent moisture was calculated. The ears of corn without husks were weighed and oven dried. After drying, the ears were re-weighed and then shelled . Weight of the dried shelled corn samples was then used to calculate bushel weights and total production of shelled corn per acre.

Since the cows also had access to the oat stubble, forage samples were obtained by hand clipping and bagging the material from inside a 0.25 meter2 frame. The forage material from each frame was sorted into a forb or a combined oat stubble, regrowth and annual grass fraction. These samples were weighed, dried and re-weighed to estimate total forage yield available. Results of corn and oat aftermath yields are shown in Table 1.

Eight pregnant crossbred (AXH) cows ranging in age from 4-12 years old were weighed and randomly assigned to each treatment. They were allowed access to the unharvested corn fields on November 15, 2001. The cows continuously grazed the corn until March 7, 2002 a period of 112 days. The cows were supplemented with 1.7#/cow / day of a 32% protein cake (GTA's Forager 32) group fed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The cows also had free choice access to a mineral feeder containing loose white salt and a calcium-phosphorous mineral (Nutra- Serve 12:12 Range Master). Water was provided via to an automatic water fountain and the cows had access to 9' tall, 20%porosity slotted board fence for wind protection. Individual weights and body condition scores (BCS's) were taken every two weeks. No additional roughage or grain was fed during the trial period. Table 3 lists the cow performance for the 112 day wintering period.

Results and Discussion

Winter conditions were favorable for extended grazing with very little snow accumulation and above normal temperatures. Cows grazed for 112 days, from November 15, 2001 to March 7, 2002. Cows grazing the West field of late maturing corn gained a total of 234.5 pounds per head and increased their BCS from 5.5-8.25. Their ADG for the trial was 2.09 lbs per day. Cows grazing the East field of early maturing corn gained 148.4 pounds per head with an increase in BCS from 6.0 - 8.5. Their ADG for the trial averaged 1.32 lbs per day. Using the average of initial and final weight, both groups of cows had an Animal Unit Equillivent of 1.34. The stocking rate was calculated at 126.2 animal days per acre.

The mild weather conditions and abundant corn allowed individual gains to be better than expected. None of the cows experienced any digestive upsets during the trial, even though they had access to abundant cob corn at the start of the trial. Daily feed costs per cow averaged from $1.20 -$1.26 for all costs.

Conclusions

Grazing standing corn with gestating cows offers the advantage of low labor and minimal effort in waste management. Inexpensive slotted board windbreaks provided adequate shelter from weather extremes. The inclusion of corn in a corn-small grain cropping rotation offers both weed control and a possible reduction of some cereal diseases. The economics of corn grazing are largely dependent upon the overall costs of the corn production system consistent with good management and weed control. This trial did not identify the best time to graze corn or whether the level of supplement fed was optimal. The best type of corn for grazing is still debatable. Producers planning to graze standing corn with cattle should be aware of the potential dangers such as founder and acidosis. They should check with their local veterinarian before turning cattle into standing corn. If possible, cattle should be exposed to limited amounts of corn before they are allowed to graze in a free choice manner.

 

Table 1 . Estimated forage and grain yields of corn and oat stubble aftermath..
Dry weight samples taken from the West Oat aftermath fieldDry weight samples from the East Oat aftermath field
Sample #Net dry wt /.25 meter2 (gms)lbs/ASample # Net dry wt /.25 meter2 (gms)lbs/A
1
23.8849
1
23.0821
2
13.1468
2
30.21078
3
30.41085
3
63.42263
4
19.0678
4
25.7917
5
47.11681
5
19.8707
6
102.43654
6
98.63519
7
38.51374
7
30.21078
8
28.0999
8
42.11502
Total lbs 10787 Total lbs11884
AverageLbs of oat stubble and regrowth1348#/AAverageLbs of oat stubble and regrowth1486#/A
Estimated yields of forbs from the oat aftermath in the West field. Estimated yields of forbs from the oat aftermath in the East field.
Sample #Net dry wt /.25 meter2 (gms)lbs/ASample # Net dry wt /.25 meter2 (gms)lbs/A
1
00
1
17.3617
2
53.41906
2
75.12680
3
34.21220
3
21.4764
4
53.61913
4
44.81599
5
58.02070
5
57.12038
6
3.5125
6
0.00
7
68.02427
7
35.91281
8
66.22362
8
54.11931
Total lbs12023Total lbs10909
AverageLbs of forb material1502#/AAverageLbs of forb material1364/A


Table 2. Corn samples (1/1000 A) taken on Oct 26, 2001. Corn planted in 36" rows.
Sample #Height (ft)Dry T/ABu/ASample #Height (ft)Dry T/ABu/A
1-West6.55.6477.141-East5.04.9588.21
2-West6.55.46104.292-East6.06.5893.57
3-West6.05.4092.863-East5.04.3357.14
4-West6.05.28108.214-East5.03.3266.07
5-West6.55.4687.865-East4.52.3927.86
6=West6.56.1285.006-East5.04.1866.07
7-West5.54.364.297-East5.54.1082.86
8-West6.57.65118.218-East6.04.4272.86
Total50.045.15737.86Total4234.28554.64
Average6.25'5.64 T/A92.23 bu/AAverage5.25'4.28 T/A69.33 bu/A
Test Wt57.0 #/buTest Wt57.5 #/bu



Table 3. Cow gains while grazing late maturing corn in the West field.

Date Weighed

Cow Number11/1511/2912/1312/271/101/252/102/213/7Total gain/hd
D4331

C3036

F6016

F6023

F6113

G7016

G7095

Y9X13

1340

1295

1480

1385

1250

1485

1380

1224

1435

1415

1535

1440

1280

1570

1460

1270

1475

1495

1575

1495

1345

1575

1485

1320

1475

1485

1605

1520

1375

1635

1500

1260

1540

1505

1670

1575

1380

1670

1510

1285

1610

1525

1685

1630

1370

1680

1575

1330

1660

1565

1770

1690

1430

1750

1645

1390

1700

1600

1780

1700

1465

1765

1640

1395

1650

1550

1735

1655

1460

1730

1595

1340

310

255

255

270

210

345

215

116

Total wt/lot (lbs)108391140511765118551213512405129001304512715
Ave cow wt (lbs) 1354.91425.61470.61481.91516.91550.61612.51630.61589.4+234.5
Total gain/hd070.75115.75127.162.0195.75257.63275.75234.5
ADG/trial 05.054.133.022.892.763.072.902.09
Ave B.C.S.5.56.256.636.757.137.137.658.258.25+2.75



Table 4 . Cow gain while grazing early maturing corn in the East field.

Date

Cow #11/1511/2912/1312/271/101/252/102/213/7Total gain (#)
A1108

C3107

E5233

F6003

F6035

G7014

G7053

G7088

1238

1585

1445

1455

1525

1310

1410

1285

1320

1670

1540

1510

1630

1380

1500

1325

1380

1690

1605

1545

1700

1425

1520

1375

1400

1700

1630

1565

1710

1485

1595

1370

1420

1690

1595

1580

1730

1510

1565

1395

1415

1695

1610

1600

1760

1510

1570

1440

1365

1730

1615

1600

1805

1550

1640

1485

1355

1745

1630

1630

1800

1550

1635

1495

1300

1695

1590

1545

1730

1525

1600

1455

62

110

145

90

205

215

190

170

Total wt/lot (lbs) 112531187512240124551248512600127901284012440
Ave wt/cow (lbs)1406.61484.41530.01556.91560.61575.01598.81605.01555.0+148.4
Total gain/hd077.75123.38150.25154.00168.38192.13198.38148.38
ADG /trial05.554.413.582.752.372.292.091.32
Ave B.C.S.6.07.07.257.257.637.758.08.508.38+2.38



Table 5. Protein supplement , salt and minerals fed.
GTA's Forager 32White salt Nutra-Serve Range Master 12:12 mineral
West cows
Total cost= $215.74
1479# @ 0.115/ lb=$170.09

50# @ $0.063/ lb=$3.15125#@ $0.34/ lb= $42.50
East cows
Total cost= $215.74
1479# @ 0.115/ lb=$170.09

50# @ 0.063/ lb= $3.15125#@ $0.34/ lb= $42.50
Ave supplement cost/ cow = $26.97
$21.26 / cow
$0.39 / cow
$5.31 / cow


Table 6. Overall economics of grazing standing corn in 2002
West Pasture
7 A
8 cows
112 days
East Pasture
7A
8 cows
112 days
Land rental charge / A$25.00$25.00
90# Starter fertilizer / A (9N-39P-15K-3Zn) 13.1913.19
Heavy discing /A10.0010.00
2nd Pass / A6.006.00
Planting / A8.008.00
Seed / A17.1824.73
Herbicide / A25.2325.23
Spray application / A3.503.50
Total corn production cost/Acre$122.89$130.44
Supplement cost
32% cake$170.09$170.09
12:12 mineral42.5042.50
white salt3.153.15
Total supplement costs.$215.74$215.74
Total corn production and supplement costs / field$1075.97

$1128.82
Corn and supplement cost per cow/day$1.20$1.26
Cost per lb cow gain$0.5735$0.9508


[ Back to 2002 Annual Report Index ] [ Back to Beef Reports ]

[ DREC Home ] [ Contact DREC ] [ Top of Page ]