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Using Corn For Grazing

Updated: May 12

Collaborating Producer: Guy and Kathy L’Heureux, Joussard

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2012 Annual Report

Feed costs have been identified as the largest single cost of livestock production, making up 50 to 70% of the total cost of production. To reduce feed cost particularly during winter, producers are exploring options to extend the grazing season. A recent viable option in parts of the Peace is the use of standing corn for fall/ winter grazing. Using livestock to graze corn reduces the need for investment in harvest and feeding equipment. With the potential to produce more than 10 tons of forage dry matter to the acre, few annual crops can compare to corn in terms of dry-matter (DM) yield per acre and cost per pound of gain. Standing corn has the nutritive composition to meet the requirements for many categories of livestock. The objective of this trial is to assess corn hybrids for agronomic adaptation and feed value in Joussard.


The trial is located at Guy & Kathy L’Heureux’s ranch in Joussard, AB. The site had been under pasture for years and recently used to feed cows. The site was worked prior to planting. Following a soil fertility test, the site received a broadcast of 85 lb actual N/ac + 15 lb actual P/ac. The soil test showed sufficient amount of K and S, so we did not include either K and S in the fertilizer blend. We planted 5 corn hybrids with corn heat units (CHUs) varying from 2200 to 2350. The CHUs rating is an indicator of how many heat units are required for the grain to reach maturity. On average, 200 fewer CHUs are required for grazing or silage corn to reach 65 per cent whole plant moisture (35 per cent dry matter) as compared to grain corn. This moisture level is normal when silage corn is ready to harvest. To increase the chances of a high yielding and high quality corn crop for grazing, it is advisable to select a variety that will match the CHUs rating for your area. Silage varieties of corn are more palatable and better suited to grazing than grain corn.

The corn hybrids planted were: BrettYoung Fusion RR, Pickseed 2219 RR, BrettYoung Edge R, Pickseed 2501RR and Pickseed Silex BtRR. These are all Roundup Ready corn hybrids. The corn hybrids were arranged in a randomized block design. Planting was done on May 17, 2012 with a John Deere hoe drill, which was adapted to planting corn kernels. The John Deere was modified to plant at 21 inches row spacing and at an average of 6.5 inches between stands. Seeding rate was 30,785 kernels per acre. A total of 18 acres was planted. Weeds were controlled once with Roundup at 0.67 L/acre.

On September 4, 2012, forage yield for each corn hybrid was determined from six random 22.5ft long corn rows. A few corn plants were selected and chopped with a corn chopper for determination of feed value in the laboratory. On the sampling day, plant height, number of cobs per plant, cob maturity, and moisture content from chopped samples were also determined. From planting to corn harvest for yield determination, notes were taken regularly on the performance of the different corn hybrids.