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Bale grazing

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rancherfred

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We have lots of corn stalks that need grazed this year that had more wind and weed damage than normal. As a result we have a lot more corn down than normal and more corn down than roughage left in the fields. I am really concerned about having enough roughage to keep the cows full so they don't founder. Because of this I am wondering about bale grazing. I have been doing quite a bit of reading and keep coming across the recommendation that you don't use annual cropland for bale grazing. My question is for our northern neighbors, or anyone else that may be using bale grazing as a management practice. Do you just use bale grazing on perennial hay ground, or are you using farm ground as well? If you are using farm ground, what could we expect in the following years as far as production? Our soils are generally sandy loams, so a little more coarse than many of the places that I read about. What kind of animal concentration are you attempting to achieve? I don't know if this is going to be a legitimate answer to my concerns but I would like to find as much information from actual producers that I can before I make any decisions.
 

Big Muddy rancher

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I don't bale graze a lot and none on annual crop land. I think the big issue of doing it on crop land would be mud.I don't think the nutrient load would bother your crop land. I see articles where the bales are pretty close together and they place them on lighter land to add organic matter.
 

perfecho

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I do bale grazing and swath grazing on the same land I grow the bales on...usually a cereal or millet. The reason for bale grazing is in case of heavy snow. The trick is to have them cleanup....which, in my case, means harvesting earlier than optimum. Its easy to get them to clean up grain heads, but not always the straw...so I am taking cereals earlier. Feeding hay would be same thing.....keeping them wired in until it is cleaned up and then moving hot wire or dumping more hay in area. Mud has not been an issue, so far...but this year will be different again.....
 

LCP

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I have a neighbor who bale grazes, but he also grazes standing corn. Sort of limit-feeds them with strip grazing. Maybe something to look into before you give up on the corn field.
 

Denny

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We grazed standing corn before no limit 125 bushel type corn , So said the guy looking at my calves. Cows did fine a couple got a bit wobbly. I myself would just open the gate.
 

J.Johnson

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Sorry that I can't provide much insight to bale grazing. I've wanted to try it for years, but "upper management" if you will hasn't allowed it. He thinks it would be a wreck. I say we will never know until we try! But I can help with the corn situation.

The trick to grazing corn stalks with excessive amounts of corn down is increasing the stock density (basically reducing the amount of available grain per head). This can be achieved in several ways:
-1st, as previously mentioned, strip grazing the field. This gives the cattle access to a set amount of grain per time period.
-2nd, if you want to graze the entire field at once, stock it with large numbers of cows. The same end goal is achieved, however, you need the numbers to do this.
-3rd, if there is truly a very large amount of ears on the ground and the field isn't prohibitively large, you can pick up the ears. The local FFA chapters are usually looking for ways to raise money, and the chore becomes much smaller with large amounts of help. This may seem unrealistic, but you might be able to hire the club for a day for $500 or so, which brings the labor cost down to well below minimum wage. In the end, you get the ears to. Just a thought.

UNL has a calculator somewhere on their beef page ( http://beef.unl.edu/ ) to estimate the amount of grain on the ground in a field. This webpage is full of great information for those on here not aware of it.
 

J.Johnson

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Found a recent article describing how to estimate bushels on the ground by counting ears.

http://beef.unl.edu/estimating-bushels-corn-ground-counting-ears-prior-grazing-cattle
 

Haytrucker

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I had never considered bale-grazing over downed corn, but it might work. You would need to start with a swath of the corn and a few bales, then work up from there I'd think. They will walk around a bale to eat corn, in my experience. In 2012-13 I wintered 450 and change on a lot of downed corn, some a part time deal. The 325 in my direct care got 3 long toes. Strip grazed, 2 hrs a day to start a strip, then work up from there. If you want a recipe to turn a bunch on too much corn, I don't have it. Bicarb is a necessity.
 

rancherfred

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Thanks for the input. We had a corn field several years ago that had an estimated 30bu down. I strip grazed that with a large group of cows and was unable to keep them happy and I ended up with several with long toes. I have sunflower fields adjacent to each field that I will probably give the cows access to and limit them on the cornstalks. After some discussions with my dad and brother, the ones responsible for the farming in our operation, I don't think I will be doing any bale grazing. I will have to figure out how to keep the cows full, which may require at least a little hay supplementing.
 

Denny

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I was thinking about this and the bale grazing. I wouldn't do it due to tillage issues in the spring. I've seen where guys use cordless drills to drill holes in the ground to put electric posts in. Corn stalks lack protein if you would feed some better quality hay they would clean that up real well I would think. Were direct opposite were feeding poor quality hay free choice and silage. But we just started that today some of the cows are on the turnip field as they wrecked some fence all of them should be on it tomorrow as I opened the gates today. We have rye planted in our corn stubble plan is to strip graze that around may 1st 100' strips 1/4 mile long for 2 weeks by then we should have grass and this should supplement the hay and silage that time of year. I feed a lot of meadow hay normally that is bale grazed but I do that on pasture ground that needs organic matter. We used to grind that hay but the last time it penciled out to $7.00 a bale so $42 a day for grinding meadow hay that money is better spent on soybean meal to add to the silage in my opinion.
 

Big Swede

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We had at least 30 bushels on the ground on a pivot several years ago after a bad October wind storm. I fenced it into fourths with a hot wire and gave 400 head no more than 2 hours access to the corn. We gave them about a half feed of hay each morning before they went to the corn. Each fourth of the field lasted a week and then they would go to the next one for a week. It took a while every day to chase cows but they knew the drill after a short time.

My neighbor was moving his cows in and out of his pivot but after about a week left them in for an extra hour. Two days later he lost his first cow and they didn't stop dying for over a week. He lost 30 head. I understand your concern, it's nothing to take lightly.
 

sandhiller

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If it was me, I would turn them in for 2 hours & no more ( only 1 hour for first few days) run them out & feed some bales. After a few days they drive out fairly well.
Why risk several cows?

Neighbor woman counted ears cows ate per number of minutes.
One time I turned my cows into heavy down corn, went to help my brothers place to get his water system unthawed. Didn't make it back for 4 hours, lost 2 Cows from that.


One time I had a semi from rendering company stop in looking to find my neighbor. I heard they filled that truck.

If ground isn't wet, I wouldn't worry about compaction. If you just dump bales out, there will be uneaten hay that will interfer wirh farming. Unroll them, at partially.
 

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