A variety of corn that grows only 4 to 5 1/2 ft. tall and has a 60-day relative maturity is designed specifically for grazing during the fall and winter, according to the company selling the open-pollinated variety.
CanaMaize has thin, palatable stalks that are easily digested. The thin, short stalks can be swathed into windrows for grazing or baling. The short height allows more plants to be grown in the same area, allowing you to use an air seeder or drill to seed the crop.
"It provides excellent fall grazing and allows small grain growers to extend their grazing season without investing in new equipment," says Shane Terry, CanaMaize Seed, Inc., Minto, Manitoba. "The seed costs are significantly lower than for conventional hybrid corn. There's no need for a row crop planter or a combine. It also requires fewer crop inputs and results in savings on chemicals and fertilizer."
The company has been selling the corn variety in Canada for the past seven years. Now, they're trying to establish a foothold in the U.S.
"The variety was originally designed to be harvested for grain but is too low so we discovered it's better suited to grazing. In Canada, about 80 percent of our customers graze the corn, 10 percent of them cut it for silage, and 10 percent harvest it for grain."
The short, thin stalks allow 99 percent plant utilization, says Terry. "Hybrid plants have a much thicker stalk that's nothing but pure fiber. As a result, the animal uses up more energy digesting the stalk than they gain from eating it.
Terry says the short, thin stalks are very pliable so the crop swaths -- and bales -- very easily. He generally recommends swathing the crop as a first option, as opposed to grazing it standing. "The first reason is less waste. In standing corn cattle trample much of the crop. Swathing concentrates the feed and makes more of the plant material available.
"Second, swathing forces cattle to eat more than just the ears. When livestock have unrestricted access to standing corn they'll eat the cobs first and may suffer grain overload. Then they're left with only the stalks leading to inadequate nutrition when it's most needed most, late in winter. However, when the corn is swathed and the animals pick up the ear to eat first, they drag the entire plant into their mouth as opposed to ripping off the ear and moving on to the next plant. It results in a more balanced diet.
"Third, it's easier to use an electric fence across a field that's been swathed than it is across a field with standing corn. As a result, you can parcel off a three or four-day feed supply and control how much the animals eat. Also, swath grazing can make the forage more accessible after a heavy snowfall."
CanaMaize bales easily, says Terry. "Moisture levels in hard core round bales should be below 22 percent, and up to 27 percent with soft core balers. Bales with moisture levels over 27 percent can be wrapped and treated as bale silage."