Corn residue offers a cost-effective winter grazing option for producers across the Corn Belt, especially when hay supplies are tight and prices high. But some farmers could be concerned that grazing will reduce yields in subsequent crops. Research has shown, though, that stalk grazing does not negatively affect yields, says South Dakota State University Extension agronomist Nathan Mueller, PhD.
First, SDSU research has shown cattle only consume about 20 percent of the residue in a field, leaving plenty to provide soil cover and minimize erosion in reduced-tillage systems, assuming stocking rates averaging 1.5 animal-unit-months, or one 1,200-pound cow for 44 days. Mueller also cites a 15-year study at the University of Nebraska and no-till research at Iowa State University showing no significant yield reductions following stalk grazing. The table below summarizes results of those trials.