Grazing Cornstalks

Jan 4, 2024 | Uncategorized

According to USDA, in 2019 farmers leasing corn ground to livestock producers generated over $95 million in economic activity. And, grazing corn stalks can be traced back to 1662 when the original New England colonies began the practice.

A couple years ago, UNL did a case study on grazing corn stalks with a cow herd vs feeding only hay.

Here’s the full article.

And here’s my summary of the case study:

Key Points:

Winter Feed Dilemma: The article discusses the challenge of choosing between grazing standing forage or feeding hay, especially in dry years when winter grazing options may be limited.

Feed Cost Cow-Q-Lator Tool: This tool, developed by UNL, helps farmers compare different feed options. It allows for custom inputs to fit various scenarios.

Case Study Parameters:

  • Herd Size: 80 spring-calving cows, each weighing 1,200 lb.
  • Winter Pasture Cost: $45 per cow per month, or $1.50 per day.

Hay Feeding Costs:

  • Cost of Hay: $165 per ton in the field, equivalent to $0.08 per lb.
  • Daily Hay Consumption: 30 lb per cow, leading to a daily feed cost of $2.40 per cow.
  • Additional Costs: Including hay waste and delivery, the cost increases to $0.157 per lb of feed, or $4.71 per day per cow.

Grazing Corn Residue Costs:

  • Rent Cost for Corn Stalks: $30 per acre.
  • Stocking Rate: Approximately 2 acres per cow.
  • Daily Cost: $0.49 per cow, making it a more affordable option.

Scenario Analysis for Remote Herds:

  • Distance to Corn Fields: 600 miles for an 80-cow herd.
  • Transportation Costs: $150 per cow for a 1,200-mile round trip.
  • Total Grazing Cost: $58.88 per cow for 120 days of grazing.
  • Supervisory Visits: $15.75 per cow, including travel and labor.
  • Total Winter Cost for Grazing Corn Stalks: $224.63 per cow.

Comparative Analysis:

  • Feeding Hay for 120 Days: $565.20 per cow.
  • Combination of Grazing and Hay Feeding: Assuming 60 days of winter range grazing at $1.50/day and 60 days of hay feeding at $4.71/day, the total cost is $372.60 per cow.
  • Economic Advantage: Grazing corn residue, even with transportation costs for distant herds, is significantly more economical than only feeding hay.


For farmers and landowners, grazing corn residue emerges as a cost-effective winter feeding strategy for cattle, especially when compared to the higher costs of hay feeding. This is true even for herds located far from corn fields, considering transportation and other related expenses.

Note: refer to the original article for more details, and use some of the tools available out there to run your own calculations.

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