As corn moves into Western Canada, so does the opportunity for livestock producers to diversify and improve the diet of their animals. Beef and dairy producers in the west have embraced corn as part of their animals’ ration and are increasing corn acres rapidly.
Traditionally, beef cattle in the west have been fed with one or a combination of grain, silage or grazing. In the winter months, many beef cattle are grazed on intensively managed winter swath barley or oats. However, the movement of corn to the west has resulted in many producers transitioning to grazing corn as a primary feed for their animals, and reaping the benefits. One big reason is that corn produces high amounts of starch, which is an important nutrient in the diet of beef and dairy cattle.
Corn often makes the most economic sense for growers. It is more nutrient dense, higher energy and is palatable to cattle — resulting in an increase in production in the animal. Corn yields are higher than barley and it can also produce two to three times more starch. On top of those benefits, corn produces more feed on the same amount of acres. This results in fewer acres needed for the same crop production, freeing up acres for other crops.
Grazing corn also has additional benefits in terms of field management. While swath grazing generally promotes uneven manure spread due to the rows, corn grazing encourages animals to spread manure more evenly. Growers can also monitor fields to ensure the appropriate amount of residue is left on the field, removing cattle when needed.
Corn is an excellent feed choice for livestock farmers. New corn hybrids now available in the west are better adapted to growing conditions, allowing consistent grain and silage products to be grown every year.
Nicole Rasmussen, CCA, is an agronomist with DuPont Pioneer.