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Revista mexicana de ciencias agrícolas

versión impresa ISSN 2007-0934

Rev. Mex. Cienc. Agríc vol.7 no.5 Texcoco jun./ago. 2016



Characterization of the direct use of stover maize (Zea mays L.) for bovine

Isaí Arellano Vicente1 

René Pinto Ruíz1  § 

Francisco Guevara Hernández1 

Luis Reyes Muro2 

David Hernández Sánchez3 

Alejandro Ley de Coss4 

1Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas- Facultad de Ciencias Agronómicas. Carretera Ocozocoautla-Villaflores, km 80. Villaflores, Chiapas. Tel: 965 655-3272. (

2Campo Experimental Pabellón, Aguascalientes-INIFAP. Carretera Aguascalientes-Zacatecas, km 32.5. A. P. 20. Pabellón de Arteaga, Aguascalientes, México. C. P. 20660. Tel: 01 465 958 01 86. (

3Colegio de Postgraduados-Campus Montecillo. Carretera México-Texcoco km 36.5. Montecillo, Texcoco, Estado de México, México. C. P. 56230. Tel: 01 595 9520200. Ext. 1262. (

4Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas- Facultad de Ciencias Agrícolas. Entronque carretera costera y Estación Huehuetán. C. P. 30660. Tel: 964 6270439. Huehuetán, Chiapas, México. (


The maize production in the Frailesca, Chiapas is closely related to livestock through the practice known locally as “rastrojeo”, so the aim of this work in 2015 was to characterize the direct use of corn stover for cattle. The availability of components corn stover, utilization, stocking, botanical composition and quality of the selected animal behavior and diet was evaluated. The experimental design was completely random and mean comparison was performed using the Tukey test. The 14 different components rastrojeo was found. Corn components in the selected diet were higher (p< 0.05) at the end of rastrojeo, while the share of African star grass and weeds were higher (p< 0.05) at the start. An increase in protein levels in the diet at the end of rastrojeo was observed, which could be related to a greater proportional contribution of the components of corn to the diet (62.35%) compared to the contribution of weeds and grasses (37%). The statistical differences (p< 0.05) between times evaluated rastrojeo activities (grazing), foraging and walking, which is related to the adjustment made by the animals in their grazing strategy found. The high diversity of plant components in stover, gives importance in terms of improvements in the quality of the animal's diet, product selection is a greater chance of it.

Keywords: availability; animal behavior; diet quality; diet composition


La producción de maíz en la Frailesca, Chiapas está estrechamente relacionada con la ganadería a través de la práctica conocida localmente como rastrojeo, por lo que el objetivo de este trabajo realizado en el año 2015, fue caracterizar el uso directo del rastrojo de maíz por bovinos. Se evaluó la disponibilidad de los componentes del rastrojo de maíz, grado de utilización, carga animal, composición botánica y calidad de la dieta seleccionada y conducta animal. El diseño experimental fue completamente al azar y la comparación de medias se realizó a través de la prueba de Tukey. Se encontraron 14 componentes diferentes del rastrojeo. Los componentes de maíz en la dieta seleccionada fueron mayores (p< 0.05) al final del rastrojeo, mientras que la participación de arvenses y pasto estrella africana fueron mayores (p< 0.05) al inicio. Se observó un aumento en los valores de proteína en la dieta al final del rastrojeo, lo cual podría estar relacionada con un mayor aporte proporcional de los componentes del maíz a la dieta (62.35%) en relación al aporte de arvenses y gramíneas (37%). Se encontraron diferencias estadísticas (p< 0.05) entre los tiempos evaluados en las actividades de rastrojeo (pastoreo), búsqueda de alimento y caminado, lo cual está relacionado con la adaptación que realizan los animales en su estrategia de pastoreo. La alta diversidad de componentes vegetales presentes en el rastrojo, le confiere importancia en términos de mejoras en la calidad de la dieta del animal, producto de una mayor posibilidad de selección de la misma.

Palabras claves: disponibilidad; calidad de la dieta; composición de la dieta; conducta animal


Chiapas ranks fifth nationally in corn production with 1.7 million tons and has an inventory of 2 491 226 head of cattle (SIAP, 2012). Meanwhile, the region Frailesca south southwest of the state, also known as the "breadbasket of Chiapas" is the largest producer of corn statewide with 53 238 cultivated hectares (SIAP, 2012); besides having a population of 229 003 head of cattle (INEGI, 2012). Therefore, both activities are considered of great importance for the region and the state, which, in turn, are closely through the direct use of crop residues as an important source of food for livestock, especially in the drought period.

The abundance of stubble, a byproduct of the corn harvest coincides with the start, properly, the critical time for the regional livestock, just as there is a shortage of pasture due to lack of rain and explains why, in the area, is widely used in cattle feeding. It is clear that their use cannot be delayed, either by the results received by producers in animal production, the prevailing need at the time or by the custom of the activity.

Guevara et al. (2014) report that 53% of producers in the region use corn stover to feed their livestock, an activity known locally as "rastrojeo", 27% use it for top dressing fertilizers leaving him on the floor and 20% burn it. This indicates the importance of this activity and how interesting it is to conduct studies that can support the development of a strategy for the rational use of resources.

Although research has been conducted whose aim has been to improve the nutritional quality of corn stover (Fuentes et al., 2001; Yesca et al., 2004; Sánchez et al., 2012), there are no data to indicate how cattle make use of these products through direct grazing, so in order to develop strategies more correct use, is necessary to obtain data that will contribute to propose best management practices stubble and animals. Therefore, the objective of this study was to characterize the direct use of corn stover for cattle to generate a strategic proposal to improve its use.

Materials and methods

Characteristics of the study area

This study was conducted during the months of January to February 2015 in the municipality of Villaflores, region Frailesca, belonging to the state of Chiapas, located between 16º 13' 15'' north latitude and 93º 16' 07'' west longitude at an altitude of 610 msnm. The climate is warm humid, the average annual temperature is 24.3 °C and annual rainfall of mm 1 209, which occurs mainly in summer (García, 1989).

Characteristics of plot and animals used

The used experimental plot was planted with hybrid corn P3966W, the most widely used in the region (Guevara et al., 2014), with a population density of 60 000 plants ha-1. The 12 cattle were used in growth zebu-swiss mating typical of the region, with an average weight of 235 ± 12.3 kg and an approximate age of two years. The duration of the experimental period (period rastrojeo animal) was 30 days, divided into different periods of evaluation according to the evaluated variable.

Variables evaluated

Availability, botanical composition, degree of utilization and stocking of corn stover

In order to know the availability of dry matter of each of the components of corn stover, twenty samples were randomly taken in the plot, using a framework of one square meter (Rojas et al., 1991), harvesting material included within this. The material was removed by components (stem, bracts, sheath, panicle, rachis, grain and corn leaf, plus weeds and grasses present), the availability of each component stubble expressed in kilograms per hectare on a dry basis. This variable was evaluated before, middle and end of the experimental period. Each of weeds and grasses was identified botanically. The degree of utilization is obtained from the difference in the availability of each of the components of corn stover two different times rastrojeo (before and end) between the initial time (before) while stocking supporting corn stover at different times rastrojeo was estimated considering the amount of stover available, the daily requirement of dry matter of animals and the degree of utilization of crop residues (Hodgson et al., 1981).

Botanical composition and quality of the diet of cattle selected using corn stover

To determine the botanical composition (percentage of components present) diet selected by the animal, the microhistological technique was used (Gonzáles and Améndola, 2010), for which a mounting reference lamella (patterns) was performed. To do this, grazing simulation was performed (Bonnet et al., 2011) in order to obtain representative samples of selected components of corn stover and consumed by the animal. These samples were processed to determine tissue patterns each. Also, temporary lamellae were mounted (corresponding to manure samples); in these anatomical structures such as plant species they were identified: trichomes, shape and size of the stomata, the arrangement, size and shape of the cell wall, silica bodies, micro and macro villi, papillae, etc.

Once the flakes prepared, readings were conducted microscopically comparing time samples with reference lamellae. Subsequently, it was necessary to transform the records relative density, by the following formula: F= 1 - e-x. Where: F= frequency; e= natural logarithm base; x= average density. The botanical composition of the diet selected was performed five days, middle and end of the experimental period, using the direct sampling of faeces in five animals.

From the data of the selected botanical composition diet, five composite samples each of the three times tested were prepared, to which were determined in triplicate quality in terms of crude protein content (PC), dry matter (MS), organic matter (MO) and ash (Ce) in accordance with the procedures recommended by AOAC. (1990) and fractions of neutral detergent fiber (FDN) and acid detergent fiber (FDA), according to the technique Van Soest et al. (1991).

Bovine animal behavior using corn stover

For animal behavior, observations were made for a period of 12 h annotating, every 10 min, the activity at the time realized the animal (consumption of any component stubble, walking, ruminating, resting, excreting fecesurine and drinking water) (Arnold and Dudzinski, 1988). It was assumed that the activity continued uninterruptedly making over the next 10 min. The observations were made in six animals after eight days and end of the experimental period.

Experimental design and data analysis

The data were analyzed using a completely randomized experimental design with three treatments (ratrojeo times), 20 repetitions for availability variables, five replicates data for composition and quality of the selected diet. In the case of animal behavior we were used the same design with two treatments (times) and six replicates per treatment (animals). Comparing means, for all cases, the procedure was performed by Tukey (p< 0.05). All analyzes were performed using PROC GLM of SAS (SAS, 1988).

Results and discussion

In the Table 1 shows the presence of 14 different components in corn stover, covering both structures of the corn plant as weeds and grasses is observed, all available for consumption by cattle. The high diversity of plant components in stover, gives importance in terms of improvements in the quality of the animal's diet (Table 5), the product of a greater chance of selection of your diet (Table 4).

Table 1 Availability (kg MS ha-1) of the components of corn stover (Zea mays L.) at different times of direct use by cattle in the Frailesca, Chiapas. 

Componentes Antes del rastrojeo Mitad del rastrojeo Final del rastrojeo
Jolochi (brácteas) 1502a (±582.94) 668b (±373.18) 56b (±32.09)
Tallo de maíz 2010a (±371.48) 1876a (±573.48) 1484a (±624.64)
Hoja de tallo de maíz (vaina) 1114a (±175.01) 948ab (±317.99) 668b (±151.55)
Flor de maíz (panícula) 29.9a (±5.06) 18a (±9.96) 8.9a (±1.00)
Olote (raquis) 22.8a (±21.53) 16.6a (±17.08) 7.3a (±9.08)
Grano de maíz 85.1a (±51.33) 22.8a (±21.53) 3.8a(±5.2)
Hoja de maíz 40a (±7.07) 36ab (±8.94) 24b (±5.47)
Balsamito (Hyptissua veolens) 512a (±164.52) 260ab (±318.98) 124b (±64.26)
Flor amarilla (Melampodium sp.) 476a (±130.49) 416ab (±107.37) 294b (±50.29)
Flor amarilla con aguate (Melampodium divaricatum) 570a (±235.26) 532a (±72.59) 484a (±139.74)
Pasto jaragua (Hyparrhenia ruffa) 16.7a (±10.72) 12.1a (±8.57) 8a (±1.6)
Pasto estrella (Cynodon plectostachyus) 74a (±13.2) 41.8a (±8.73) 25.7a (±12.37)
P. cola de conejo (Eragrostis curvula) 103.9a (±16.59) 73.2a (±20.84) 42.7a (±13.79)

a,b: Medias con letras distintas en la misma hilera difieren estadísticamente (p< 0.05); valor entre paréntesis: desviación estándar de la media.

The components bracts, leaf stalk of corn, corn leaf, balsamite and yellow flower statistically different (p< 0.05) in different time’s rastrojeo animal. In the case of weeds, their availability was related to animal preference (Table 4) because of rastrojeo as time progressed, their availability and presence in the selected by the animal diet decreased (p< 0.05); however, in the case of the components of corn, the opposite happened.

In Table 2, the degree of utilization of corn stover, identified as the consume stubble by the animals at different periods throughout the experimental time expressed by weight of dry matter, according shown with the amount of that weight, the degree of use of stover in terms of percentage (Huss, 1972) is expressed. The bracts components, grain corn and thatching grass are those with the highest percentage of use, which may indicate your preference by animals.

Table 2 Degree of use of the components of a corn stover at different times of direct use in bovines Frailesca, Chiapas (%). 

Componentes 0-15 días del rastrojeo 15-30 días del rastrojeo 0-30 días del rastrojeo
Jolochi (brácteas) 55.53 91.62 96.27
Tallo de maíz 6.67 20.9 26.17
Hoja de tallo de maíz (vaina) 14.9 29.54 40.04
Flor de maíz (panícula) 39.73 50.64 70.25
Olote (raquis) 27.3 55.59 67.72
Grano de maíz 73.12 83.27 95.5
Hoja de maíz 10 33.33 40
Balsamito (Hyptissua veolens L.) 49.22 52.31 75.78
Flor amarilla con aguate (Melampodium sp.) 12.61 29.33 38.24
Flor amarilla (Melampodium divaricatum) 6.67 9.02 15.09
Pasto j aragua (Hyparrhenia ruffa (Nees) Stapf) 27.87 100 100
Pasto estrella (Cynodon plectostachyus) 43.42 38.53 65.22
Pasto cola de conejo (Eragrostis curvula) 29.57 41.59 58.86
Mantillo 14.41 48.62 56.02
Promedio 60.36

Whereas the average degree of stubble by the animal throughout the evaluation period was 60.36% utilization (Table 2) it is considered that 40% of the biomass remains in the soil for conservation purposes. In this regard, proper use of crop residues is essential for the appropriate use practices could maintain coverage and therefore soil conservation, knowing that only by covering 30% of the soil surface erosion is counteracted (Guevara et al., 2014); however, it is necessary to note that the highest daily production of meat or milk per animal, are obtained when there is a use of light to medium (50%) of pasture production by hectare is lower with this degree of use, due to lower number of animals present per unit area.

In the Table 3 shows the variation of animal load of a hectare of corn stover throughout the period of use of the esquiline by the animal is presented, it is evident the decrease in stocking over time grazing, as unlike prairies where the stocking can be maintained in areas of no growth beddings this vegetation. In consideration 100% availability of corn stover, at the beginning of grazing support a stocking rate of 604.95 UA ha-1 d-1 to decrease to 291.16 compared to the end of the grazing. With the above values, on average, it can be calculated that corn stover can withstand 313 UA daily or 10.4 UA in a month, which coincides with the number of animals used in the experiment (12 AU).

Table 3 Animal load (UA ha-1 d-1) of corn stover at different times of direct use by cattle in the Frailesca, Chiapas. 

Componente Antes del rastrojeo Mitad del rastrojeo Final del rastrojeo
Rastrojo completo 604.95 466.58 291.16

This proposal could indicate a balance between the amount of stover available and adequate intake of this by livestock; at this point, gains would be achieved, both animal and per area, but the important thing is obtained sustainably without soil degradation by overgrazing and consequences of bare soil (Humphreys, 1980).

In the Table 4 shows the components that formed the diet selected by cattle corn rastrojeando shown. Corn components in the diet were higher (p< 0.05) at the end of rastrojeo, while the share of weeds and African star grass were higher (p< 0.05) at baseline rastrojeo. This could be explained by changes in the behavior of diet selection, by the animal, given the heterogeneous conditions of the pasture, that is, the animals preferred to initially weed and African (65.34%) star grass in your diet, species better nutritional value (Pinto et al., 2004) and end with a similar percentage (62.35%) but corn components. It should be noted that the components of the corn plant were the ones who contributed the highest percentage of the selected diet at all evaluation times, which could be associated with high availability (Table 1).

Table 4 Botanical composition (%) of the diet selected by cattle rastrojeando maize (Zea mays L.) at different times in the Frailesca, Chiapas. 

Componentes Cinco días del rastrojeo Mitad del rastrojeo Final del rastrojeo
Planta de maíz 34.66b (±1.53) 35.62b (±1.74) 62.35a (±2.78)
Balsamito (Hyptissua veolens) 14.84a (±1.73) 8.84ab (±5.26) 1.46a (±2.52)
Flor amarilla (Melampodium divaricatum) 13.64a (±2) 12.37a (±1.43) 4.31b (±2.04)
P. Cola de conejo (Eragrostis curvula) 11.54a (±5.2) 14.12a (±4) 6.15a (±2.46)
P. Estrella (Cynodon plectostachyus) 11.22a (±1.93) 9.34a (±2.21) 1.81b (±1.86)
P. Jaragua (Hyparrhenia ruffa) 14.10a (±5) 19.72a (±3.61) 23.91a (±3.65)

a,b= Medias con letras distintas en la misma hilera difieren estadísticamente (p< 0.05). Valor entre paréntesis: desviación estándar de la media.

Weed average values in the diet of animals rastrojeando during the study period (17.12%) are slightly below those reported by Pinto et al. (2014) in cattle grazing during the dry season a conventional pasture (19%), indicating the importance of weeds in animal diets, which could help change the perception of producers on the disadvantages of them (Guevara et al., 2014).

The choice of diet is the means by which the grazing animal seeks to meet their nutritional requirements from a heterogeneous pasture as the case of the stubble, and can be considered as a behavioral adaptation to variations in the average nutritional environment. Under natural conditions, these variations resulted from two sources: the diversity of the pasture, which offer a range of nutritional value and growth habits, which affects their preference as fodder, and the magnitude of defoliation to be imposed, what influences the seasonal pattern of digestibility and accumulation of senescent material pasture (Provenza, 2006).

The important in the selection process of diet on corn stover, lies in the impact it has on the ecological system of the same and that the possibility or not to select affects the total nutrient intake by varying the amount and quality of existing components in that stubble.

The choice between different species or parts of the same plant is determined by the response to chemical stimuli perceived by the senses of smell, taste and touch the animal. The only signals that can activate this system, are molecules which chemically react with nerve receptors, to transmit information to the brain. The animal responds integrating these messages with others such as nutritional information or the presence of a metabolic disorder. For example, the hungry animal may respond by reducing its rejection threshold of taste or smell; that is, it reduces the preference level. There are probably differences in the number and type of receptors, both between and within animal species, and therefore the selection will be different (Provenza, 2006).

As for quality of selected cattle diet (Table 5), statistically significant differences (p< 0.05) in the content of crude protein, ash and organic matter were found. An increase in the values of protein and minerals at the end of rastrojeo is observed, which could be related to a greater proportional contribution of the components of corn to the diet (62.35%, bracts mainly) in relation to the contribution of weeds and grasses (37%) (Table 4), although the better quality of the latter (Pinto et al., 2004). According to the nutritional requirements of beef cattle (NRC, 1989), the average levels of crude protein supplied in the diet at the beginning of rastrojeo, are below those recommended for maintenance (6.5%) needs, which involves considering strategies supplementation to improve ruminal fermentation of food consumed and nutrient supply (Leng, 1986); however, in the end, the quality of the selected diet suggests that the animal has improved its selection and supplementation strategy could be different (Leng, 1986).

Table 5 Quality of the diet selected by cattle rastrojeando maize (Zea mays L.) at different times in the Frailesca, Chiapas. 

Cinco días de rastrojeo 93.12a (±0.16) 5.19b (±0.12) 75.19a (±0.53) 48.31a (±2.02) 5.23b (±0.1) 94.77a (±0.1)
Mitad de rastrojeo 93.53a (±0.07) 5.59b (±0.18) 77.24a (±1.03) 52.85a (±2.96) 5.21b (±0.05) 94.79a (±0.05)
Final de rastrojeo 93.56a (±0.12) 7.44a (±0.18) 73.01a (±2.5) 46.15a (±2.44) 6.9a (±0) 93.10b (±0)

MS= materia seca; PC= proteína cruda; FDN= fibra detergente neutra; FDA= fibra detergente acida; Ce= cenizas; MO= materia orgánica. Medias con letras distintas en la misma columna difieren estadísticamente (p< 0.05); valor entre paréntesis: desviación estándar de la media.

The average values of crude protein found in the selected diet (6.07%) in animals rastrojeando is similar to the values found in animals grazing African star in the dry season (6.3%) in the same study area (Pinto et al., 2014). This supports why producers indicate that the stubble keeps animals like pastures during the dry season (Guevara et al., 2014).

There have been many attempts to relate preference to animal proximal composition analysis of forages. However, the animal cannot recognize soluble carbohydrate, energy, etc., since there are no free at the molecular level in plants. When found correlations between these characteristics and preferences, it is because they are related to some specific entities or physical properties of plants. They may be associated with differences in hardness of the structure of the leaf and stem, young and mature tissue and turgor characteristics between live and dead tissue (Sosa et al., 2000).

Evidence shows that preference animal can be, not only but also induced innate. Such that the selection may depend on previous experience nutritional. This implies that a young animal need not learn by trial and error that forage is appropriate, but it can learn from the mother. Therefore animals that grow in different media have different preferences, even within the same species. So you can also teach them to reject a particular food if for example consuming it, causes an upset (Dumont et al., 2002).

However, the selection will depend on the level of preference that has the animal for certain plant components. But this selection capability will be modified for the opportunity you have to select, and the composition and structure of vegetation cover. Consequently, how they can be intermingled the different parts of the plants and its spatial distribution in the vertical and horizontal plane, will determine the chance of selection (Ortega et al., 2009).

In the Table 6 shows the activities of diurnal behavior (12 h) of cattle using corn stover, showing statistical difference (p< 0.05) between times evaluated activities rastrojeo (grazing), foraging are presented and the walking, which it is related to changes made by the animals in their grazing strategy in response to the level of coverage, as well as changes in the availability of forage present in the grazing areas (Burus and Sollenberguer, 2002).

Table 6 Behavior (h) of bovine rastrojeando maize (Zea mays L.) at different times in the Chiapas, Frailesca. 

Ocho días del rastrojeo 5.42a (±1.45) 1.61a (±0.66) 0b (±0) 0.36b (±0.26) 4.42 a (±1.83) 0.08a (±0.06) 0.11a (±0.08)
Final del rastrojeo 2.33b (±0.44) 2.08a (±1.03) 1.81a (±0.13) 0.83a (±0.29) 4.75a (±0.9) 0.03a (±0.04) 0.17a (±0.08)

RAS= rastrojeando; RUM= rumiando; C= buscando forraje; CAM= caminando; DES= descansando; HO= heces y orina; TA= tomando agua. Medias con letras distintas en la misma columna difieren estadísticamente (p< 0.05). Valor entre paréntesis: desviación estándar de la media.

It is noted that the time spent rastrojeo could be directly related to the availability of forage present in the plot, contrary to what is commonly reported in the case of grazing grasses, in which an inverse relationship is indicated, because when there is a reduction of forage production grazing time (Acciaresi et al., 1994; Hess and Lascano, 1997; Patiño et al., 2008) is increased. In this work it was found that at the end of rastrojeo, when the availability of components decreased (Table 1), the time spent rastrojeo was lower (p< 0.05), dedicating the animals, as long as the search and selection of forage and I walked involved in it (p< 0.05). On the other hand, at the beginning of the evaluation, the animals spent more time rastrojeo (p< 0.05) in response to the increased availability of forage present on the plot (Table 1).

Considering rastrojeo activity as the most important, the data obtained show that the hours devoted to this activity by the animal in the stubble is lower than those reported as pastoralist in tropical grasslands (8-9 h) (Arnold and Dudzinski, 1988) and even lower than those reported for the dry season (6.3 h) where no grass growth (Pinto et al., 2014).

The answer may be associated with physical limitations in the consumption of animal due to high fiber diets (Table 5) or to the animal streamlines its consumption rate given by the number of bites and the individual weight of it (Chacon and Stobbs, 1976).


The results under the conditions in which this study was conducted show that high diversity of plant components present in a stubble, gives importance in terms of improvements in the quality of the animal's diet, the result of a greater chance of selection the same, it is important to define more efficient supplementation strategies for animals rastrojean directly.

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Received: April 2016; Accepted: June 2016

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