The drought this year has left many cattle producers in a bind. Hay prices are high and pastures are burnt up which leaves corn stalks as an excellent grazing option. While many producers annually graze cornstalks, this year it will be of even more importance. Cattle are already in stalks and there are lots of corn fields being baled for forage.
A recent UNL CropWatch article by Charles Wortmann, Terry Klopfenstein, and Aaron Stalker showed that in a corn-soybean rotation study conducted from 1996 to 2011, the effects on yields of the following crop were determined for fall-winter grazing (November to February) and spring grazing (February to mid-April, the time of greatest concern of compaction by animal traffic on thawed and wet soil). The field was irrigated and had three treatments (fall/winter grazed, spring grazed, and ungrazed) which have been maintained in the same area since 1996. The stocking rate was with yearlings at 2.5 times the normal level since 2000. On average, yield of the following soybean crop was increased by about 2 bu/ac with fall-winter grazing, and 1.3 bu/ac with spring grazing, compared with no grazing of corn stalks. Yield of corn as the second crop after grazing was not significantly affected. There is ongoing research which will be reported in the 2013 Nebraska Beef Cattle Report which include a dryland trial.
The article concluded that grazing corn stalks is compatible with no-till management in eastern Nebraska and probably is for irrigated fields throughout the state with no loss in average grain yield expected. With wet soil conditions in the spring, consider removing cattle from the field or taking other steps management steps to minimize the effect of compaction.