Livestock grazing and soybean yields


IMAGE: Little corn residue stays after focused grazing in the high equipping density treatment the day that livestock were moved from the fields in March of 2020.
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Credit: Morgan Grabau

By late fall, much of the Midwest is a pleasing landscape of dry, gathered corn fields. It produces an agrarian rural scene on highway drives. However the corn litter that’s left over does not appear beneficial, a minimum of to inexperienced eyes.

However to those in the understand, that corn residue is an important resource. Spread leaves, husks, kernels, and cobs can work as food to grazing livestock. When handled well, corn residue can increase farm earnings, supply economical food for livestock, and effectively utilize the land to feed individuals.

Morgan Grabau, a member of the American Society of Agronomy, research studies the interactions of livestock grazing and crop performance. She just recently provided her research at the virtual ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting.

” Corn residue is an under-used resource. Just 15% of the corn residue acres in the main U.S. are grazed,” states Grabau.

One huge issue farmers have about livestock grazing corn residue is soil compaction. If livestock compact the soil excessive, future crops may not grow well. Dealing with the concern of soil compaction is the primary focus of Grabau’s work.

In the past, Grabau’s research study group has actually revealed that compaction isn’t regrettable throughout fall and winter season grazing. When the soil is dry and frozen, it withstands marking livestock hooves. “My research study was concentrated on the result of grazing in the spring when the soil is defrosted and damp,” she discusses.

Grabau studied 2 various grazing systems. In one system, scientists let a little number of livestock graze corn fields for 45 days beginning in mid-February. The other system tripled the variety of livestock however cut grazing time to simply 15 days in March. By doing this, the overall quantity of grazing was equivalent. However the time invested in damp fields differed, which might impact how the soil reacts to all that trampling.

The scientists studied corn fields in Nebraska, where around half of the corn fields are grazed after harvest. The group determined numerous soil residential or commercial properties that add to compaction and the yield of the soybeans planted in the fields the list below season after livestock were done grazing. The group duplicated the experiment over 2 years.

” Just like previous fall grazing research studies, very little impacts were seen on soil residential or commercial properties and yield due to spring grazing, no matter the variety of livestock and location grazed,” states Grabau.

The soybean performance of the fields following grazing did reveal some modifications. The extremely focused grazing for simply 15 days really increased yields a little.

” This yield boost might be due to more residue gotten rid of, triggering warmer soil temperature levels for plants to grow,” Grabau states.

The livestock did trigger some soil compaction. However their impacts were restricted to the surface area level of fields.

” Compaction isn’t long-term,” Grabau states. “Soil can chill out once again as it dries and fills over and over, and microbial activity in the soil likewise lowers compaction.”

Thankfully, soybean seedlings had no issue developing themselves in the soil after grazing even with some surface area compaction present.

” Even when we produced a worst-case situation, grazing in the spring when the ground was damp, compaction was very little and subsequent soybean yields were not adversely impacted,” Grabau states.

Although Grabau states that fall and winter season grazing is most likely still the very best option, farmers should not hesitate of grazing livestock in the spring.

” The combination of crops and animals is an useful production system,” states Grabau. “Grazing livestock on corn residue can be an excellent method to make more food for human usage from corn fields, as both the corn grain and plant residue can be utilized as feed for animals.”


Morgan Grabau is a college student in animal science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This job is supported by the Nebraska Agricultural Experiment Station with financing from the Hatch Multistate Research Study Program of the United States Department of Farming National Institute of Food and Farming. The ASA-CSSA-SSSA Yearly Satisfying was hosted by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America. .

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