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Corn grazing has potential for Mississippi cattlemen
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Farmers have traditionally worked hard to keep cows out of their corn, but Dr. Steve Redding is glad to see part of his herd grazing in corn.
Redding is a full-time veterinarian and a part-time cattleman in Lafayette County. For the past two years, he has devoted seven acres of his pasture to corn planted with just minimum tillage. He grazes heifers on the standing corn from late summer through early fall. The results, he said, have been good and he plans to put more of his herd on corn grazing next year.
"This looks like the way things will go in the future," he said. "You don't have to move feed or troughs to the pasture, plus it's good for wildlife."
Grazing cattle on standing corn uses conservation tillage practices to convert pasture land to corn production, said Mike Boyd, an animal scientist at Mississippi State University.
Boyd and MSU agronomist Glover Triplett have combined their talents to study the feasibility of corn grazing in Mississippi. Triplett pioneered the use of conservation tillage practices at Ohio State University in the early 1960s and has refined the use of little or no tillage to produce crops during the past 20 years at Mississippi State.
"This is an ideal system for the family farmer because little equipment is required and profit potential is increased," Boyd said.
He and Triplett began working with the system in April 2003 at the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station's Brown Loam Branch near Raymond.
Corn was planted on 35 acres using conservation tillage practices. Potential corn yield was estimated two weeks before grazing was initiated and was determined to be about 120 bushels per acre.
Once the corn reached roasting ear stage, steers that were previously assigned to the Experiment Station's integrated summer grazing systems were transferred from the Leveck Animal research Center at Mississippi State to Brown Loam.
During the first 28-day period, the steers were followed through slaughter to gather carcass weight, carcass quality grade, rib eye area, yield grade and back fat thickness.
The steers were divided into two groups based on weight. The heavy group averaged 1,000 pounds, and the light group averaged 880 pounds.
Preliminary feedlot data shows the heavy steers gained 4.8 pounds a day while on feed and the light group gained 4.25 pounds per day, Boyd said.
"Both gains were well above what would be expected of heavyweight steers," he said. "Steers treated similarly at the Ames Plantation in Tennessee as part of the project were fed at a different feedlot and gained 5.2 pounds per day while on feed."
The corn grazing system was repeated at Brown Loam this year, and data from both years of the study are still being evaluated.
Contact: Dr. Mike Boyd, (662) 325-2802