Be Careful Before Releasing Cattle into Damaged Cornfields

Farmers should take precautionary management steps to help prevent cattle from overloading on corn, which can result in health problems.

Due to heavy rainfall and strong winds in August, 10% to 15% of Iowa's corn crop has suffered moderate to heavy lodging, according to an Iowa State University Extension specialist. For cattle producers, this means more corn left in the field for feed.

Cornfields in northern and southwest Iowa were hit especially hard by weather, says Roger Elmore, ISU Extension corn specialist. So, it's wise to think about turning beef cows out into those fields to use the downed corn. "This is a good year to glean some of that for livestock," says Elmore.

However, farmers should take some precautionary management steps in order to help prevent cattle from overloading on corn, which can result in health problems, says Russ Euken, an ISU Extension beef field specialist who works with the Iowa Beef Center at Ames.

Don't let cattle overload on corn

Overloading on corn can cause rumen acidosis, a condition caused by a rapid increase in rumen lactic acid, which occurs from a sudden change in diet. The condition can cause death in severe cases, but it can also lead to laminitis (founder foot) and increase the animal's susceptibility to infections.

To avoid such health problems, it's important to condition the cattle prior to turnout. As such, Euken recommends using the following regimen for three days prior to release. The rations are best administered in split feedings.

* Day 1: Feed 8 pounds of corn
* Day 2: Feed 12 pounds of corn
* Day 3: Feed 12-15 pounds of corn

Signs of overload after releasing cattle into the fields include scouring (diarrhea) and rapid bloating, says Euken. In severe cases, seek treatment quickly from a local veterinarian.

Also to help avoid overloading cattle on corn, Euken says farmers can strip graze the area (allowing cattle access to just a portion of the field each day), which will better use the corn and cornstalks, as well as limit how much corn is available on a daily basis.

For more information, contact the Iowa Beef Center, [email protected], or 515-294-BEEF. The Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State University was formed in 1996 by a legislative mandate. Its goal is to support the growth and vitality of the beef cattle industry in the state. As part of ISU Extension, the Beef Center serves as a central access point for all ISU programs and research related to the beef industry.

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