Use of High-Moisture Corn Products for Finishing Cattle and Corn Residue to Extend the Grazing Season for Pregnant Beef Cattle

Titre de Projet

Use of High-Moisture Corn Products for Finishing Cattle and Corn Residue to Extend the Grazing Season for Pregnant Beef Cattle

Des Cherchers

Greg Penner, University of Saskatchewan

Dr. Bart Lardner, University of Saskatchewan, Kathy Larson, University of Saskatchewan

Le Statut Code de Project
Terminé en Août, 2023


As corn varieties with lower heat units are released corn has become more popular across Canada and producers are looking for economical ways to best utilize this crop on their operation. Feeding high moisture corn (HMC) (made from harvesting and ensiling corn kernels) and snaplage (made by chopping and ensiling the ear of corn including the husk and cob) are both processes that may allow producers to take advantage of the high nutrient content of corn.


  • The objective of this project is to evaluate the use of high-moisture corn products (high-moisture corn and snaplage) as an energy substrate in diets for growing and finishing cattle. In addition, we aim to evaluate the potential to utilize corn residues as a winter feed source for pregnant beef cattle.

What they Did

Researchers will evaluated the yield, quality and cost of high moisture corn and snaplage. There were 4 different studies that were conducted:

  • They compared different backgrounding diets using feedlot steers, using a control barley-based diet, barley silage diet with a portion of barley grain replaced with snaplage, or barley silage diet with a portion of barley grain replaced with high moisture corn.
  • They fed those same diets to ruminally and duodenally cannulated heifers to evaluate metabolism and site and extend of digestion.
  •  They compared grazing residue after harvesting either snaplage or high moisture corn to cattle grazing whole barley swaths.
  • Finally, they conducted an in vitro trail was using various parts of the corn to determine chemical composition and digestibility.

What They Learned

When evaluating digestion characteristics for diets containing snaplage and high-moisture corn, this team observed that use of snaplage to fully replace barley silage and part of the barley grain did not affect feed intake, but they did see an increase in ruminal starch digestion and reduced ruminal pH. There were limited effects of replacing barley grain with high-moisture corn.

In the performance study, feeding high-moisture corn increased hot carcass weight and dressing percentage over those fed barley grain. Replacing barley silage and part of the barley grain with snaplage reduced the proportion of severe liver abscesses.

With regard to corn residue, there was substantial losses of biomass associated with wind and predation (migratory birds and deer). Feeding dry pregnant cows high-moisture corn residue in windrows as part of a winter grazing system required more supplementation with dry distillers’ grains than when swath grazing whole-plant barley, but such an approach enabled similar performance responses. Baling high-moisture corn residue reduced field loss, but resulted in bales heating and mould formation. Cows fed high-moisture corn residue bales required more supplementation than those fed barley greenfeed bales and still corn-residue fed cows had lower feed intake, final body weight, and body condition score than those consuming barley greenfeed. Performance responses were confirmed based on low in vitro digestibility for most corn plant parts.

From an economic perspective, snaplage was less expensive to use than traditional barley and short-season high-moisture corn for finishing diets products at the time of the study. In drought years, corn stover can be less expensive to feed than barley greenfeed but will require more supplementation to ensure cow productivity is not compromised.

What This Means

The studies contained in this research show that producers in western Canada could consider high-moisture corn products (either snaplage or high-moisture corn) as energy sources for finishing cattle. In fact, feeding high-moisture corn may improve hot carcass weight and dressing percentage over dry-rolled barley grain. Snaplage can be used to replace all of the barley silage and part of the barley grain and may reduce the proportion of cattle with severe liver abscesses. Feeding high-moisture corn residue is not without challenge in western Canada given the risk for field loss and challenges with preservation when baled; however, provided cows receive sufficient protein and energy supplementation, corn residue may be a cost-effective alternative to whole-plant barley.