Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Corn and Grassfed...

From time to time I have eluded to the fact that my Dad and I don't always see eye-to-eye on how we envision the farm being run. My Dad grew up on the farm and while he agrees that we need to market our own beef, pork, or whatever he is having a hard time imagining farming with out planters, plows, combines, and grains. Plus some tractor seat time just for good measure.

Well, I may have found the answer. When reading through Allan Nation's BLOG this morning I came across a post titled, "A Corn Plant for Grassfed Beef". You will have to scroll past the first couple of articles to get to it, but it was an interesting read for me because I could see its usefulness in our part of the country.

Here is the main idea from the article,
"Illinois research has found that when tropical varieties of corn are grown in the Midwest, the corn plant does not normally flower or produce grain. Instead, the plant concentrates sugars such as sucrose, fructose and glucose in its stalk and leaves."
The University Illinois is researching this plant for its ethanol applications, but it could have a couple of large impacts on the grassfed grazing community also.

Number one, it would be a great source for finishing grassfed steers in the summer. It would give them plenty of growth nutrition to add the weight at a high enough rate for finishing, and according to USDA rules the cattle would still be grassfed because they ate the corn before grain was produced.

And, secondly it would work wonderfully as a winter stockpiled forage. In the tests the plant grew as tall as 16 feet. I think there would be plenty above the snow for grazing in the Midwest! This winter feeding ability could lead to raising completely grassfed grazing beef year around. Cutting out the hay is a major labor saver and if my Dad got to plant a little corn in the meantime it would just be a bonus.

This is just in the research phase right now, but it would be worth following. If you have any experience with cattle grazing corn stalks before it goes to grain I would be interested in hearing from you.


sugarcreekfarm said...

This just came thru my inbox...

Iowa Forage and Grassland Conference. Short notice - it's next week - but thought you might be interested.

Steven said...

is regular corn not worth grazing when young and green?
I can't tell you how much "volunteer corn" I saw disked under this fall. I mean, fields FULL of corn that was between 12" and 3' tall.

Ethan Book said...

Sugar Creek - Thanks for the link to that conference. I'm going to check into that!

Steven - Regular corn can be grazed no problem, but in order to sell as grass fed you have to graze before the grain comes on ... so, one benefit of the tropical corn is that it won't go to grain in the Midwest as far as I understand.

Steven said...

I understand the value of not going to grain..
Does anyone have any idea why there was so much corn left over in the fields that it came up thicker than the planed crop did? Do the combines pick too fast? Do the farmers drive too fast? it sure doesn't seem "efficient".
Also, could you make silage from this corn.. the volunteer corn? Someone told me that the silage wouldn't be any good if it didn't have time in the fall to produce grain... is that just conventional wisdom?

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