Most of the cow breeding herd and young calves in Nebraska garnish the bulk of their winter nourishment grazing the leftovers of crop fields. The roughage and corn that remain in the field after harvest (the leftovers) provide an important source of winter feed for cattle.
During corn, soybean, and wheat harvest, some of the forage of the plants along with a small amount of grain is left in the field. This feed can either be baled for future feed use, or can be grazed by cattle. On our farm, most is baled for future feed use at the feed yard, but we do use about 100 acres for fall cattle grazing and winter horse grazing.
When the tulips bravely show their heads and the alfalfa begins to green, it is time to take down the portable winter fences that were needed to keep the cattle and horses in the correct fields while grazing. These fences must be taken down before my favorite farmer and his crew can begin spring farm work.
One of the fields that is used for grazing is just west of our house. Archie helps me to fence the field so that my horses can get their winter feed from the leftovers. My horses love to have a large space to graze all winter and it saves me feed resources to have them spend November to April grazing the stubble that is left in the field.
Ensuring that the leftover feed is used by our livestock plays an important role in the sustainability of our farm. The goal is to minimize waste, and the cattle are very helpful at accomplishing this.
The majority of what I feed my cattle is not the primary harvest crop. Corn stalks and wheat stubble are baled after harvest and provide the main source of forage or roughage in the feed yard casserole. Additionally, a significantly large part of that casserole is Wet Distillers Grains which is what is left of the corn after ethanol has been extracted.
Cattle are great recyclers—whether they are grazing a corn stalk field after harvest or eating those leftovers once they have been transported to the feed yard.
When the tulips begin to bloom in my front yard, my horses lose their winter grazing pasture. As Dandy whinnies from the gate, my favorite teenager and I take out the fence posts so that Archie can roll up the wire and Matt can begin to farm.
Helping me to take down fence is one of Ashley Grace’s favorite chores because I let her practice her driving skills on the alfalfa field while I take out the fence. Together we make a great team!
As spring descends on Nebraska, I am thankful for both the resilience of our land and the winter feed that it has provided for our animals. Our cattle and horses are big fans of leftovers!