Grazing Corn Stalks

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Grazing Corn Stalks

Postby Patrick H. » Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:23 pm

Ethanol fever has hit our area. With a plant in production 15 miles from my farm, every available acre seems to be devoted to corn. (Price helps too obviously. I buy the majority of my hay locally, and in the past cheap. I expect prices to increase this next year as people take their extra hay acres out of production. So I am thinking about fencing some neighbors fields and renting their stalks. Here are my thoughts.

1. Old school rule: One acre for one cow for one month. If one cow = five ewes, one acre should last five ewes one month.

2. I have 100 ewes now and may triple in the next few years. In theory 100 acres of stalks could take 100 ewes for 5 months with little supplementation. (November through March)

3. I know that stalks degrade as time passes. Also grain gets consumed and so the feed value is lowered as time goes by. I would turn ewes in during November and want to breed in December. Do fresh stalks constitute flushing feed? Assuming there is some corn to be harvested the first month.

4 I AM SURE THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH POINTS 2 AND 3. Otherwise this would be done all over already. What are the problems. How long can ewes last on stalks. Are the adequate for the first 2 trimesters of pregnancy? What kinds of low cost rations are others using with corn stalks as the basis?
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Postby Lisa » Sun Feb 25, 2007 11:11 am

Wellscroft farm does it, and I've heard Dave speak about it, but I don't remember the details. I thought he might have some info on his http://www.wellscroft.com/farm/farmGeneral/farmFAQ.html, but I don't see it, sorry.
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Postby Bill Fosher » Sun Feb 25, 2007 11:29 am

Sheep need to be acclimated to free choice grain and vaccinated against clostridial disease.

I've grazed green sweet corn residue with lambs in the past, and it worked fairly well, but there's not much grain corn grown around here to graze them on. There was a few hundred acres in Hadely, Mass., that I could have had, but it was too far away to be practical.

Here's some older articles from Ohio State University:

http://knox.osu.edu/ag/archieve/september04.html

http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~rmoore/ag ... jan98.html
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Postby Janet McNally » Sun Feb 25, 2007 3:14 pm

You will want some protein and calcium supplemented to the ewes. A pound of alfalfa is a handy way to do this, but if you are close to the plant you may want to look at using the co products with added calcium.

wet DGS can be ensiled and makes a great feed supplement, but ensiling requires a very large number of animals to keep the open face fresh.

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Postby Patrick H. » Mon Feb 26, 2007 9:34 am

I have spoken with a University expert from MSU on this topic. He tells me that stalks can be counted on to take ewes through November, December and into January in Michigan depending on mud and ice. Apparently Producers in Iowa are grinding stalks and mixing them with wet distillers grain to make a ration for sheep. After looking at initial costs that will cost more than hay for me. So I think that Jan Feb and March and part of April will continue to be either Turnips or hay for me.
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Grazing corn and milo stalks

Postby WayneG » Mon Feb 26, 2007 10:52 pm

My dad ran ewes in stalks for as long as I can remember. Every fall he would start on milo stalks, turn them out in the evening, by the time the corn was harvested, the milo stalks were picked over and we would just open the gate and let them run. We didn't worry about too much grain. He could run the ewes on about 300 acres. I don't ever remember having one founder or anything like that.
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Postby Bill Fosher » Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:51 am

Hi Wayne,

Welcome aboard! Adjustment to grain would be a bigger consideration on a flock like mine, where the ewes seldom see any grain at all. Grain is so expensive in New England that many of us use it very sparingly if at all.
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Postby Bill Fosher » Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:57 am

Ensiled wet DGS -- could this be tubed/bagged to make for a smaller face? I'm assuming that there's a very small particle size, along the lines of corn meal?

I have a friend with a small flock who used to get spent grain from a micro-brewery. She'd pick up a batch at a time in a junk freezer, and the insulated box kept the stuff from freezing up on her.
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Postby Janet McNally » Tue Feb 27, 2007 4:45 pm

Hi Bill,

the only actual experience with it that I have, was working with a producer who mixed potato peels with wet dgs and ensiled it. Made a fabulous lamb finishing ration and great ewe supplement. this person cooperated with a dairy farm to assure the consumption was adequate. A pit silo was used.

One problem was some mild laminitis, the ration was a bit low in dry matter. feeding dry hay or adding a dry feedstuff to the silage may be necessary for animals eating significant quantities.

I would think tubes would be useful, don't know about the physical properties of stuffing them though.

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Postby Patrick H. » Wed Feb 28, 2007 9:08 am

Hi Janet.
Here in Michigan there are custom operators who will bring the ag baggers to your farm. I imagine this is the same wherever there is a strong dairy industy. It takes a large tractor (130 horse plus) to run the bagger. I have a friend who has 2000 ewes that chops most of his hay and bags it. There is virtually no waste and the quality is excellent. For me to do this with stalks, I would have to hire someone to bale the stalks, someone to grind the bales, and then have the bagger hired to ensile the mixture. I am going to focus on temporarily fencing corn fields instead.

I noticed in your Graze article in Feb. that you rank temporary fence highly. What would your temp fence of choice be for large areas of stalks. I have 8 sections of Premier mesh, but that won't fence very much area. I have quite a bit of poly wire on reels, but not enough to do many acres, and deer are a problem. I am thinking plain high tensile.
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Postby Janet McNally » Wed Feb 28, 2007 9:15 pm

Hi Patrick

how many acres are you talking about?

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Postby Patrick H. » Thu Mar 01, 2007 10:08 am

I am thinking of fencing 40 acres of stalks to start. This could expand when I add more ewes. I have about 110 right now.
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Postby Janet McNally » Thu Mar 01, 2007 2:34 pm

Hi Patrick,

the HT would be fine if you plan to make this a permanent fence, but if you want to look at portable fencing I'm inclined to say that maxi shock is probably the better choice if you want to fence in the entire 40, but personally I've had too much trouble holding sheep in with maxishock, and also, this requires using the reel barrow, and if you are working on plowed soil, the mud sticking to the wheel is a real pia.

I've switched entirely to netting, I now have 30 rolls, and set up 10 roll paddocks which I move as often as needed (for up to 200 sheep). The reason I gave up on the maxishock was because we can get very dry and at times just do not have enough moisture in the soil to make a good circut. The netting is simply more reliable for sheep control, and has the added benefit of helping stymie predators.

But to move any fence, you need reasonably thawed ground. We are colder than you are (unless you are way up north?) seems like those lakes keep you warmer, but I can move fence up until approx Dec 15th. so knowing this you can rotate on those stalks up until the point where you freeze more than 1 inch deep, then need to have enough fence on hand to finish off the remaining stalks.

pulling netting through the stalks is another pia, but it is doable especially if you can flatten those stalks to make a path. I use a 4 wheeler with a 4 x 8 trailer and flatten a path through the turnips (which is similar to having to drag netting through stalks) and it helps.

in summary, if your sheep are easy to control, and you can keep that fence really hot, first choice would be maxishock if you want to do the whole 40 at once, but if you need more control, I'd put up with the hassle of pulling netting through the stalks.

Janet
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Postby Patrick H. » Thu Mar 01, 2007 3:01 pm

Thanks Janet. I intend to keep investing in netting anyway, but have some extra HT wire. (several rolls) That is why I have thought about using wire and building a spinning jenny that can be powered to pull wire out. Perhaps a hybrid plan using HT for the areas that are out of the farmers way and netting to subdivide will be the final answer.
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Postby Patrick H. » Thu Mar 01, 2007 3:03 pm

How long does a 10 roll break last 200 sheep? I know it varies, but estimates would be helpful to me
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