Historically, livestock production has been an unsustainable facet of our agricultural system. We are now recognizing the power of grazing and pasture to store carbon and feed populations and economically benefit farmers. Cattle are the top agricultural commodity in Oregon, the majority of these operations are in the southeastern part of the state. One specific challenge facing producers in this region is the lack of winter forage. This shortage leads ranchers to confinement feed their animals over the winter. We want to measure the economic viability of wintering cattle on fodder beet pasture as compared to feedlot systems. This will be accomplished by instituting a 40-acre trial of fodder beet forage for winter grazing of approximately 200 cattle in Burns, OR.
We are requesting funding for one year to complete this trial. Fodder beets are being successfully used to pasture livestock in New Zealand; the low cost, high yield and high metabolic energy of this crop allow for high stocking densities and indicate great promise for the economic advancement of rural farmers. Fodder beets have also introduced a new avenue through which young people in New Zealand are becoming farmers. The expertise of myself as a grazer coupled with the experience of my technical advisor make us an exceptionally qualified team to carry out this trial.
1. Quantify the efficacy of winter grazing on fodder beets as compared to feedlot wintering
based on cost.
2. Actively share results with local extension agents, ranchers, farmers, industry
organizations and private consultants during the trial and after the data has been collected
At this point, we have spent since May 3 growing these beets in the High desert of oregon. The farm is located near Burns Oregon.
On October 13th we determined there to be 6 tons of dry matter per acre. This was done with weighing the beets fresh and submitting feed samples to dairy one, Ithaca New York. After obtaining the dry matter content of the samples we determined our dry matter crop yield. While we were hoping for a higher yield, it’s important to note this was a very high yield for competing crops in this region.
Grazing cattle started on October 29 with 142 calves. We started them on a mostly hay diet and transitioned them to a mostly beet diet over the course of a couple weeks. By day 15 they had more beets than they could eat and by day 29 I was feeding only 3lbs of hay per calf.
The cattle will be weighed again on January 22 for their final weight and a full report of our findings will be submitted after.
Calves were weighed on the truck before arrival to the beet field. Their starting weight was 552lbs. On Day 42 we weighed the calves and determined that the calves had lost 7lbs of weight. They arrived at a weight of 552lbs and our weight showed 545lbs. After talking with several experts we we decided to up their dry hay allotment to 5lbs per calf per day and switch to straight alfalfa. We weighed them again on January 12th and they had reached a weight of 596lbs. this was an increase of 44lbs over 35 days.
We will conclude our grazing trial on January 22
Educational & Outreach Activities
Not applicable at this time
Farmers would now understand crop yields, growth rates on cattle and per acre costs of this crop. Also in the final report we will provide guidelines for break feeding and quantity of alfalfa supplement.