Grazing Drought Stressed Crop Residue, Todd Whitney, Extension Educator Crop Specialist
Grazing drought stressed crop residue and moisture stressed pivot corners can be a feed source opportunity; but may also have possible nitrate concerns and rapidly declining residue quality. Also, shorter grass pastures may be motivating producers to begin earlier fall crops residue grazing.
When it comes to stalks residue, grain sorghum stover will retain nutrient grazing value longer than corn. This year, quickly declining stalks quality, may trigger earlier residue grazing for corn and sorghum soon after grain harvest with both residues providing good nutrition for mid- to late-gestation cattle following fall harvest.
Although both residues provide the highest nutrient content soon after grain harvest; prioritize grazing corn stalk fields first. Corn leaves tend to detach from stalks within one to two months after harvest and then blow out of stalk fields; thus, lowering grazing nutritional content. In contrast, grain sorghum stover leaves remain attached to stalks much longer into the winter and early spring retaining nutritional value.
Previous grain sorghum yields can be used to set optimum grazing stalking rates. For example, grazing rates might be 1 acre per cow per month for every 100 bushels of harvested sorghum. Unlike corn residue, grain sorghum stover can have prussic acid toxicity along with possible nitrate toxicity risk especially if cattle are forced to graze the lower 8 inches of drought stressed stalks. To reduce nitrate risk, do not force cattle to completely graze lower stalks; and delay initial cattle turnout into stressed stalk fields until afternoons with at least partially filled rumens. To reduce prussic acid risk, limit or delay grazing of sorghum stover if tiller regrowth is occurring at the base of sorghum stalks. Pause grazing stressed sorghum stalk fields for one week following the first fall frost where temperatures do not drop low enough to actually kill sorghum.
More crop residues research information is available on: cropwatch.unl.edu and beef.unl.edu
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