Animal Science Department


First Advisor

Richard J. Rasby

Second Advisor

Mary E. Drewnoski

Date of this Version



Cox - O'Neill, Jordan L. "Backgrounding Calf Management Strategies Using Corn Residue and Double Cropped Forages." (2017).


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Animal Science - Ruminant Nutrition, Under the Supervision of Professors Richard J. Rasby and Mary E. Drewnoski. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2017

Copyright (c) 2017 Jordan L. Cox - O'Neill


Approximately 70% of calves in the U.S. are born in the spring and weaned in the fall, this results in a large supply of calves potentially available for backgrounding over the winter. Backgrounding systems positively impact the beef industry by efficiently using forage resources available. These systems also provide production value by enhancing the calf’s frame size, mature BW (increase HCW), and health prior to entering the feedlot. In Nebraska opportunities to integrate both crop and livestock production, by backgrounding calves abound. Approximately 13,100 metric tons of corn residue or 34,000 Animal Unit Months are available for grazing in Nebraska. However, 37% of crop producers surveyed in Nebraska, indicated that they do not allow grazing of their corn residue. Producers that did not graze cited concerns of soil compaction, inconveniency (watering and fencing), and lack of access to livestock as major deterrents. Planting cool-season grasses (oats) and brassicas (turnip and radish) immediately after corn silage harvest in mid-late August, can also be a potential winter forage source for grazing. The oat-brassica forage had DM yields ranging from 3,756 to 5,144 kg/ha and relatively high nutritive values, with IVDMD ranging from 83 to 89% and CP ranging from 16 to 25%. Gains of steers grazing corn residue and supplemented with distillers at 0.86% of their BW ranged from 0.24 to 0.79 kg/d and 0.47 to 0.94 kg/d for steers grazing an oat-brassica forage during the winter. All 3 treatments finished with a similar 12th rib fat and calculated YG. However, steers that previously grazed did have increased finishing DMI and decreased G:F when compared to steers solely fed a corn silage-based diet during the backgrounding phase. The grazing treatments had a greater HCW and LM area than steers fed a corn silage-based diet. However, steers grazing corn residue did have a slight reduction in marbling. Yet, the difference observed for marbling was minor and would not be great enough to merit discounts or premiums for carcasses. These backgrounding systems are a practical way to integrate crop and livestock production systems, in order to best utilize the abundant resources available in Nebraska.

Advisors: Richard J. Rasby and Mary E. Drewnoski