Cattle FAQs

- Frequently Asked Questions -

I raise 30-60 beef calves ranging in weight from 250-800 lbs. This year I have been feeding whole shelled corn. I am getting all kinds of opinions about doing this. Some say I should only feed corn until they are about 400 lbs, others say not to feed until they are over 400 lbs. Others say never feed whole shelled corn at all, that it wastes too much to be worth the money. Does any one have an opinion that they can back up with facts or experience?

Answer posted by Craig

Any corn fed to cattle must be cracked. A bovine can't chew corn like a hog and cannot digest whole corn effeciently. Waste of money.

Answer posted by Waddie

It is not a waste. Years ago I worked for a large purebred producer in Montana, we fed both cows and heifers cobbed corn. Those animals would get to were they could pick-up a cob roll it in their mouth to take the kernels off and spit the cobs out. The thing to be careful of when feeding it to cows and heifers that are going to calve is that they do not get to fat. We would cut them off corn completley approx. 6 weeks before calving was to begin, in order to bring their weight done a bit to prevent calving problems due to the extra weight.

Used right, whole shell corn is excellent feed.

Answer posted by Craig

Guess we’ll just have a difference of opinion on this one. You would be hard pressed to find any old-timers that would ever feed corn to cattle. Hogs, yes. Cattle, no. The corn will pass right thru a cow’s system and you’ll see a lot of whole kernels in the manure with the germs intact. You might call that the proof in the pudding – ha.

Unless the corn is green, it will do them very little good - unless it’s cracked. If you won’t believe the old folks, just look around… How many feedlots put out whole corn? That will tell you how efficient it is. Just about any grain or seed would be better than corn. Of course, like they say, “it beats snowballs.”

Answer posted by Jason Trowbridge

How about a 70 year old in Nebraska who swears by whole corn for his cows. How about most feedlots that use corn feed it whole. Feedlots in Ontario and some parts of the States feed 100% whole corn rations to fatten steers.

I fed corn this year for the first time as it came in as cheap as barley. I did crack most of it, but my machine missed 10-15%, leaving it whole. The cows started chewing the whole kernals about 3 days after I started feeding it to them. I saw no ill effects from the corn, and no difference in their performance during that period.

Just because some kernals will germinate after passing through a cow, doesn't mean they all do, or even that the cow never got anything from them. It just means the germ is intact, cows use the starch more than anything.

That being said I still prefer to crack/roll/grind any grain I feed. My choice for feeding is good hay/greenfeed, and barley. No animal products, no preventative medications, 2 and 3 times the labeled withdrawl from any treatment given. Not the only way, but my way.

Answer posted by Craig

Well, some responses were so adamant that I did some checking. According to the research I read, it does appear that calves under 450 pounds can digest whole shelled corn. Above 450, it depends on which paper you read. Some say it’s great, some say it should be processed – especially if it has low moisture content.

Of course, when I see outfits feeding meals made from fish, dried blood, bone, or even sheep offal and/or turkey litter, I guess nothing should surprise me. That’s one reason we eat our beef “pasture prime.”

So, technically, I guess I need to eat a small helping of crow.

Having said all that, I’m still going to stick with the way I came up. For me, whole shelled corn just ain’t good cattle feed.

BTW, I prefer my crow chicken fried.

Answer posted by Dunmovin

I've tried feeding cracked and ground corn, it blows around and away too much. We use nothing but corn gluten, it's the cheapest thing we can get. I'ld like to feed whole corn cause the wild turkeys love to follow the cows and scatter the pats. Problem is, it's 50% pricier then corn gluten.

Answer posted by Jeanne

Whole shell corn is excellent feed. Cracked corn is easier to digest (8% more efficient). If you have to pay a feed mill to crack your corn, and if it costs more than 8% for this service, than cracked corn costs too much in comparison to efficiency.

You will see the whole corn in the manure, but if you had it analyzed, the food value had been taken out.

We work with juniors feeding steers for projects. We ALWAYS recommend WHOLE SHELLED CORN because it is much easier to keep the animal HEALTHY! Cracked corn can get powdery and this powder or finely ground feed can clog up the fillia (not sure of spelling, but the stomach has fine hair-like fingers). If this happens, the animal gets sick - goes off feed.

The main thing about feeding young lightweight cattle, is that they cannot eat very much, so WHAT they eat needs to be well balanced, containing enough protein. Baby calves need about 18% protein. Corn is only 9% protein so it is not adequate for young cattle without other protein sources - like adding soy bean meal which is easy to do. Your local feed mill can tell you how much to add. By the time the steer reaches about 700# we feel that the whole shell corn can be fed without adding protein (like soy bean meal).

All the above diets need hay fed also.