Extension News

Special Management Needed Before Releasing Cattle into Damaged Cornfields


AMES, Iowa – Due to heavy rainfall and strong winds in August, 10 to 15 percent of Iowa’s corn crop has suffered moderate to heavy lodging, according to an Iowa State University (ISU) 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, said Roger Elmore, ISU Extension corn specialist and agronomy professor. So, it’s wise to think about turning beef cows out into those fields to use the downed corn, he said.

“It would be a good year to glean some of that for livestock,” Elmore said.

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

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, the Iowa Beef Center recommends using the following regimen for the 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 the cattle into the fields include scouring (diarrhea) and rapid bloating, Euken said. In severe cases, seek treatment quickly from a local veterinarian.

Also to help overload, Euken said producers 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 at www.iowabeefcenter.org, beefcenter@iastate.edu, 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.


Contacts :

Russell Euken, Field Specialist, (641) 923-2856, reuken@iastate.edu

Roger Elmore, Agronomy, (515) 294-6655, relmore@iastate.edu

Nancy Foster, communications specialist, Iowa Beef Center, (515) 294-9124, nfoster@iastate.edu