Combining some corn early to get stalks for grazing could benefit your pastures and your cattle, suggests Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage agronomist.

“Most of us soon will have only a little pasture left,” he says. “But your cows will still be out there trying to get what little they can. You know the cows and calves can’t be doing very well unless you also are feeding them, but what also is this grazing doing to your pasture?”

Grazing stresses pastures, which need time to recover as winter approaches. Even if they have received plenty of rain and are growing well, pasture plants severely grazed now will weaken as winter approaches. They’ll green up later next spring, early growth will be slow, and they'll compete poorly with weeds.

Stalk grazing can give the pastures some much-needed rest, says Anderson. Early stalks usually have more protein and energy than late stalks, so they can put some condition on cows while also relieving pastures. And after the growing season is completely over, graze any remaining growth on pastures without causing much stress.

“Since you need a little time to set up fences and water tanks on stalk fields, anyway, maybe you should start corn harvest a little early this year,” he says. “It might lessen the hectic pace you often feel later when you want to spend time in the combine harvesting crops as well as set up stalk grazing.”