Improving Sustainability of Cow-Calf Operations with Natural Forage Systems

Final Report for LNC97-119

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1997: $81,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2000
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $331,140.00
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Don Adams
University of Nebraska, West Central Research and Extension Center
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Project Information

Summary:

[The report for this project includes many tables, and mathematical formulas that could not be included here. The regional SARE office will mail a hard copy of the entire report at your request. Just contact North Central SARE at (402) 472-7081 or ncrsare@unl.edu.]

Objective: Our primary objective was to determine if labor and purchased inputs could be reduced and sustainability and profitability improved by matching lactation (i.e. calving and weaning) with nutrient content of grazed forages and/or by extending the grazing season in beef cow/calf systems. Specific objectives: (1) Compare total resource use (especially labor, equipment, and feed), production output, and profitability of traditional March calving to a June calving system; (2) Evaluate weaning systems that reduce inputs of resources and improve profitability of traditional March calving systems; (3) Educate 250 producers per year about the concept of matching nutritional requirements of cattle to the nutritional content of forages and extending traditional grazing systems.

Methods: The general approach involved combining results from the SARE project research with completed and ongoing studies and records of participating producers into a whole ranch systems analysis. A June calving date was compared to a traditional March calving date. The impacts of non-traditional grazing of subirrigated meadow to extend the grazing season in lieu of traditional haying were also researched. Total input use, both quantity and quality, were monitored and measured. Output of each system was measured to provide a necessary part of the economic analysis. Whole ranch budgets for a typical Sandhills operation were used for economic comparisons of calving dates. Price and production risk were incorporated into the analysis.

Results: Key results are that by adjusting calving date to match lactation with nutrients in grazed forages, nearly 2 tons of harvested feed was replaced by grazing. Feeding and calving labor inputs were 61% lower for the June calving compared to the March calving system. Weaning rates were comparable between March and June calving systems. Weaning weights for June-born calves were 70 lbs. lighter than March-born calves. However, because of the lower feeding costs and higher prices for lighter calves, net returns at weaning were higher by about $75/head for calves born in June compared to those born in March. A significant fact in adopting our concepts to cattle production systems is that capital outlays are generally not required nor is risk increased. In addition the use of fossil fuels would be greatly reduced since hay harvesting and feeding activities are greatly reduced.

Impacts: We estimate that as many as 250,000 head of cattle may have been impacted to date by our project. If a $75/calf increase in returns were realized for each calf impacted the beef cattle industry would realize an increase in returns of over $18 million annually. This work has been presented to over 4,000 people in each of the last five years. The Nebraska Ranch Practicum, a 7-day school for producers, was a direct spin-off of the work from this project. Prior to our publication, “Extended grazing systems for improving economic returns from Nebraska Sandhills cow/calf operations,” the term “Extended Grazing” was not apparent in research or extension publications. Since that time “Extended Grazing” has appeared in scientific publications and numerous extension and production symposia. Our research on matching nutrient requirements of the cow with nutrients in grazed forages has resulted in initiation of research on calving date in Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Missouri, and Utah. It is our assessment that our interdisciplinary systems research is on the cutting edge of range beef systems research in the United States and beyond.

Introduction:

Our primary objective was to determine if labor and purchased inputs could be reduced and sustainability and profitability improved by matching lactation (i.e. calving and weaning) with nutrient content of grazed forages and/or by extending the grazing season in beef cow/calf systems. Previously most research and production systems had attempted to match the forage to the cow with various practices such as seeding range or pasture land to non-native grasses to meet a nutrient void of cattle in range plants. In project 1 during 1994 through 1999, cows were calved beginning March 15 (traditional calving date) or 15 June (nontraditional calving date) at the University of Nebraska Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory near Whitman NE. The June calving date matched the high nutrient lactation requirements of the cow with high nutrient content of immature growing plants. March calving cows were fed hay January through mid-May and grazed rangeland mid-May through December. June calving cows grazed rangeland all year long except during harsh winter weather. Calves were weaned at the same age in October and January for March and June calving systems respectively. Total input use was monitored and output recorded for March and June calving systems. Project 2 is using weaning date as a means to match nutrient requirements of lactation with forage nutrients in a March calving system. Beginning in 1997 through 2001 March calving cows will be weaned in August or November and will graze range all year long except during calving, March through mid-May. Inputs and outputs are being monitored as described for March and June calving systems. The findings for project 1 are summarized below:

Hay fed, lb/yr:
March Calving 3947
June Calving 227

Supplement fed, lb/yr:
March Calving 96
June Calving 154

Pregnancy rate, %:
March Calving 94.8
June Calving 91.9

Weaning rate, %:
March Calving 88.8
June Calving 89.0

Steer weaning weight, lb:
March Calving 480
June Calving 421

Gross value/steer calf, $:
March Calving 410.00
June Calving 409.00

Cost/weaned steer, $:
March Calving 252
June Calving 175

Net on returns/steer, $:
March Calving 86
June Calving 156

Key results are that by matching lactation with nutrients in grazed forages by adjusting calving date nearly 2,000 pounds of harvested feed was replaced by grazing and net returns were about $80 and $70/head higher for steer calves born in June compared to those born in March. We estimate that as many as 250,000 head of cattle may have been impacted to date by our project. If a $75/calf increase in returns were realized for each calf impacted the beef cattle industry would realize an increase in returns of over $18 million annually. Results from project 2 are not complete enough to report trends or impacts at this point in time. A significant fact in adopting our concepts to cattle production systems is that capital outlays are generally not required nor is risk increased. In addition the use of fossil fuels would be greatly reduced since hay harvesting and feeding activities are greatly reduced.

Project Objectives:

The hypothesis to be tested is that labor and purchased inputs can be reduced and sustainability improved by matching lactation (i.e., calving and weaning) with nutrient content of grazed forages and/or extending the grazing season in cow/calf systems. Objectives for testing the hypothesis and providing timely information to beef cattle producers in the Nebraska Sandhills and to other areas where beef production is reliant on range and pasture land include:

1. Compare total resource use (especially labor, equipment, and feed), production output, and profitability of traditional March calving to a June calving system.

2. Evaluate weaning systems that reduce inputs of resources and improve profitability of traditional March calving systems.

3. Educate 250 producers per year about the concept of matching nutritional requirements of cattle to the nutritional content of forages and extending traditional grazing systems.

Research

Materials and methods:

The setting for this project was the Sandhills of Nebraska. This primarily ranching area covers over 12 million acres and is home to 525,000 beef cows. A typical operation is a family-owned proprietorship with about 4,600 acres of land. The average operation has about 210 head of spring calving cows. The majority of operations sells calves either at or close to weaning time in the fall. Most of the land is range. Approximately 52% of the operations have access to native grass and subirrigated meadows. There are nearly one million acres of subirrigated meadows in the Sandhills that are often fertilized and used for hay production. The water table in the meadows is close to the surface so there is danger of nitrate contamination from some of the present practices. Most ranches contain little “cropland.” Cropland that occurs is primarily used to produce alfalfa hay and some grain.

The general approach involved combining results from the proposed research with completed and ongoing studies and records of participating producers into a systems analysis for the whole ranch. A June calving date was compared to the traditional March calving date. The impacts of non-traditional grazing of subirrigated meadow to extend the grazing season in lieu of traditional haying was also researched. Changing calving date and/or extending the grazing season with subirrigated meadows were hypothesized to improve sustainability by improved cultural practices, reducing dependence on purchased inputs and improving economic performance. The University and participating producers will provide workshops and demonstration sites. Specific procedures for each objective follow.

Objective 1: Crossbred beef cows calved either at a traditional date beginning 15 March or nontraditional date beginning 15 June at the University of Nebraska’s Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory near Whitman, Nebraska. March calving cows were fed hay harvested from subirrigated meadows December through May and grazed Sandhills rangeland June through November. June calving cows grazed on range or subirrigated meadow yearlong and were fed small amounts of supplemental protein during dormant season grazing. Within the general experiment for both March and June calving dates, meadow grazing treatments were be imposed at different times to extend or compliment the grazing of rangeland as described in objective 2. Calves born in March were weaned in late September and fed to slaughter weight in the feedlot. June born calves were weaned in November; one-half of the calves entered the feedlot at weaning and were fed to slaughter and one-half were wintered on hay harvested from subirrigated meadow and summered on Sandhills range followed by a short feeding period in the feedlot. Treatments for March and June calving dates are summarized in the table below.

Total input use, both quantity and quality, were monitored and measured. Output of each system was measured to provide a necessary part of the economic analysis. Whole ranch budgets for a typical Sandhills operation were used for economic comparisons of calving dates. Labor and input requirements were estimated from the experimental herd and from records of participating producers. Economic success of these systems depends in part on handling of calves, including marketing; consequently, analysis included simulated marketing of calves at different times from weaning to finishing. Price and production risk were incorporated into the analysis. Production risk was based on the biological results from objectives 1 and 2. Price risk was incorporated into the analysis by examining the profitability under multiple combinations of input and output prices.

Objective 2 (in progress): March calving cows were assigned to two weaning dates and two winter supplement treatments. Weaning dates were about: 1) August 18, and 2) November 7. Supplement treatments were: 1) no supplement during winter grazing on range (1 December to 1 March), and 2) protein supplement during winter grazing on range. Cows grazed range year long except during calving in March when they were fed meadow hay. After weaning in August and November, steer calves were trucked to a feedlot and fed about 210 days for slaughter about May 1 and June 1. Weaned heifer calves grazed subirrigated meadow between August and November weaning dates. Heifer calves were not utilized in the study after the November weaning. Cow performance was evaluated by pregnancy rate, weaning rate, calving date, body weight, body condition score, and milk production. Calves were evaluated by weight at weaning, into the feedlot, and at slaughter. Feed efficiency and carcass traits were determined. Pounds of calf produced, feed, equipment, land, labor, and variable costs between the weaning-supplement systems will be used to evaluate economic differences between systems. The hypothesis was that August weaning will reduce cow costs and increase net returns over November weaning by improving body condition of cows entering winter and reducing the need for supplement. This study was also a working demonstration of grazing rather than feeding harvested forages during winter.

Objective 3: Field days and workshops for producers will be conducted each year in cooperation with the Nebraska Chapter of Holistic Resource Management (HRM), Nebraska Cattleman Association, Natural Resource Districts, and Soil Conservation Service. The field days will be on participating operations and the research site.

Five producers have agreed to participate. These operators calve in either the spring and/or summer. Five more producers will be identified as cooperators. Production and financial records from these cooperators will be collected and analyzed to provide a realistic basis for the economic analysis and guidance in the research. In addition, participants will provide field demonstrations and technology transfer. Field days will also be held at the Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory study site to familiarize producers with the study and its concepts. Results will be published in the popular press, e.g. High Plains Journal, Nebraska Farmer, HRM and Natural Resource District Newsletters, the Nebraska Cattleman magazine, and extension publications, so they will be readily available to the public. In addition, satellite programs coupled with video cassettes will be used to reach a larger and more diverse audience. Videos of participating ranches will be shot and used as part of satellite conferences. The University of Nebraska has an extensive system of satellite downlink and uplink capabilities. These conferences will feature research results, as well as the interviews and videos of producers making the concepts work.

Research results and discussion:

Objective 1. Compare total resource use (especially labor, equipment, and feed), production output, and profitability of traditional March calving to a June calving system.

Beginning in 1993, two cow-calf herds were initiated at the University of Nebraska’s Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory (GSL). One herd was bred between June and August for calving in March of the following year. The other herd was bred between mid-September and late October, half on upland range and half on subirrigated meadow, for calving in June of the following year. The March-born calf crop was weaned in late-September and shipped to the feedlot as calf feds in mid-November and slaughtered in late May. The June-born calf crop was weaned in early January with half of the steer calves shipped to the feedlot as calf-feds in mid-February and slaughtered in mid-August. The other half of the June-born steer calves was fed until June, summer grazed on upland range, and shipped to the feedlot as yearlings in mid-September for slaughter in late-January (Table 2). Heifer calves from each system were retained for replacement.

Because of potential bias from conversion of cows from a spring to summer calving cycle, pregnancy rate during the first years, 1993 and 1994, were not included in the data analysis. Production and resource use (grazing, feed, and labor) records were maintained on each cow-calf herd from breeding to slaughter through 1999 (Table 3).

Synchronizing calving with growth of natural forages resulted in substantially lower amount of hay fed. Over four years, about two tons of hay was fed to March calving cows annually compared to about .1 tons of hay for June calving cows. However about 60 pounds more purchased feed (e.g. protein supplement) was fed per June calving cow annually than March calving cows. Labor for feeding and calving to produce a weaned calf in the June system were 61% lower than the March system. One factor not included in the list of resource requirements is a calving building commonly used in the traditional March system and not needed in the June system. Post-weaning resource requirements for calf feds (hay and supplement to prepare a weaned calf for shipment to the feedlot) were higher in the June system. Calves grown as yearlings in the June calving system required additional supplement, harvested forage, and grazing, than June or March born calf-feds but were finished in the feedlot about 8 weeks faster.

Weaning rates, were calculated according to Standardized Performance Analysis (SPA) guidelines, and were the same for the March and June systems. Calf weaning weights and average daily gain (ADG) were different between the two systems (Table 4). June-born steer calves were about 50 to 70 lbs. lighter (meadow- and range-bred treatments, respectively) at weaning than March-born steer calves. The ADG was greater for the March-born calves than June born calves during backgrounding between weaning and shipment to the feedlot. However, ADG in the feedlot was higher for the June-born calf feds. Live weights at slaughter were higher for the March-born calf feds. A greater percentage of the carcasses from the March system graded choice (53%) than the June system (33%). Sixty-six percent of the June system yearling carcasses graded choice or upper 2/3 choice. Carcass yield grades were 3 or less in all systems.

Economic and financial cost budgets were developed for each production stage (wean, between wean and on grass or to feedlot, on grass, and feedlot) for the March and June systems based on the 4-year average resource use during each stage and 1998 input prices (Table 5). Both cost budgets include charges for harvested and purchased feed, grazing, labor, operating interest, management, and overhead. The economic costs reflect the opportunity costs of growing the steer calf during a production stage by also including the value of the incoming animal if purchased at market. Valuing the steer calf at the beginning of each stage of production in this way permits each stage to be evaluated independently, as if each stage was an independent enterprise. The financial costs reflect the accumulated cash costs of growing the steer calf to a particular stage. The economic and financial cost budgets do not include charges for property taxes, insurance, or buildings and equipment.

The economic cost of producing a weaned calf is the same as the financial cost because there is no opportunity cost of an incoming animal. The cost of producing a June-born weaned calf was $73 to $78 lower per calf than the cost of producing a March-born weaned calf due to lower harvested forage and feeding and calving labor expenses. The additional financial costs to grow a steer calf past weaning were nearly the same for both the June- and March-born calf fed systems, therefore the financial cost advantage remained with the June system through the feedlot. However, when comparing the post-wean economic costs of the calf-fed systems, only the range-bred treatment June-born calf-feds ready for shipment to the feedlot had lower costs than the March-born calf-feds. The economic and financial costs for June-born yearlings reflect the higher incoming animal values/accumulated costs as well as the higher costs of finishing the calves as yearlings.

Annual net returns budgets (Table 6) were developed using the cost budgets, average annual steer weights at each production stage, and 1992 through 1999 real prices received at western-Nebraska and eastern-Wyoming auctions. Potential selling strategies for the calf crops were determined based on the various production stages. The economic net returns at each production stage are calculated as the difference between gross revenue per calf and the opportunity cost of growing the calf and reflect the ability of each production stage to generate a return on investment, i.e., make profit. The financial net returns are calculated as the difference between gross revenue per calf and the accumulated costs of growing the calf and reflect the ability of each production stage to generate a positive cash flow greater than the accumulated costs.

When evaluating the economic net returns, a negative value for a stage of production indicates that stage would not stand alone as an enterprise without being subsidized by earlier or later stages — the stage does not generate a profit. Similarly, a negative financial net return, though not experienced, would indicate that growing a steer calf to a production stage would not generate a positive cash flow. Based on economic and financial net returns, selling a June-born weaned calf in January from either the range- or meadow-bred treatments provided $65 to $75 more profit, on average, than a March-born weaned calf sold in September. Again, this is primarily due to the lower costs of producing the weaned calf. The post-wean economic net returns indicate the June system is only profitable if the weaned calf is finished as a yearling in the feedlot and the March system is profitable if the weaned calf is finished in the feedlot. From the financial (cash flow) standpoint, the June system always generated higher net returns than the March system.

These results are based solely on average costs and returns. A more detailed economic analysis, including an examination of the influence of economic risk, is presented in section 7: Economic Analysis.

Objective 2. Evaluate weaning systems that reduce inputs of resources and improve profitability of traditional March calving systems.

March calving cows are weaned in August and November. These cows were in turn assigned to two different winter supplement programs during winter grazing on range (December 1 to March 1), resulting in four production systems. Weaning dates are August 18 and November 4; supplement treatments are: (1) no protein during winter grazing and (2) protein supplement during winter grazing. Cows graze year long except during calving (March 1 through May 10). The calves from the systems are backgrounded for about three weeks and then sent to the feedlot for finishing. The hypothesis is that the early weaning will permit the cows to reduce their requirements earlier and thus graze longer since they would be expected to go into the winter in higher body condition than those weaned in November.

Results indicate that the early-weaned cows can reproduce at equal levels as the others while receiving about one ton of harvested forage and no protein supplement. Their requirements are reduced sooner thus making more grass available for extending grazing in the fall and winter. It was expected that calves from the early-weaned treatment would be finished at least a month earlier than those weaned in November and thus take advantage of the normal March-April highs in the fed cattle markets. Cull cows would also be available for market at higher seasonal prices and in better condition.

Objective 3. Educate 250 producers per year about the concept of matching nutritional requirements of cattle to the nutritional content of forages and extending traditional grazing systems.

Reports of our research and concepts have been presented at meetings and symposia in Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Missouri, Montana, Iowa, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Ohio, Oregon, Mexico, and Canada. These presentations have been to multi-state producer symposia, National Cattlemen Beef Association cattlemen’s college, state Beef Cattle Association meetings and seminars, IRM schools, university field days, annual meetings of cattle breed associations, national and state veterinary association meetings, classes sponsored within states for certification credits for veterinarians, lectures and seminars for university beef system classes, county and area extension meetings, and training for professionals in industries allied to beef production (especially feed manufacturing). This work resulted in two field days at the University of Nebraska Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory (GSL) in 1996 and 1999 with attendance of over 225 from multiple states at each field day. The systems research has also resulted in numerous visits to GSL by beef producers, extension educators, allied industry and scientists and students from across the United States and several foreign countries. We estimate that this work has been presented to over 4,000 people in each of the last five years. The Nebraska Ranch Practicum, a seven-day school for producers, was a direct spin-off of the work from this project. The practicum is hands-on education with livestock and natural resources management during the summer, fall, and winter. Participants evaluate the outcome of management decisions such as calving date and weaning date on animals and vegetation. To better understand how plant and animal growth interact during the seven month period (e.g. June through January), participants monitor cow body condition score, milk production, and cow and calf weights. Participants maintained an inventory of a teaching cow-calf herd and made economic evaluations of various aspects of the cow-calf system.

While the interest in our work is noteworthy, the greatest impacts may be on the beef industry itself. It is our assessment that we have brought a focus on grazing and management systems and practices across the United States that reduce production costs, increase returns, improve sustainability, bring greater attention to the importance of holistic management, and inventorying resources.

Research conclusions:

Our SARE project has had significant impacts on beef production, beef cow systems research, and extension education in Nebraska and in many states that have significant numbers of beef cows. Our project has brought attention to and application of production practices that extend grazing, reduce use of purchased and harvested feeds, reduce production costs and improve returns in beef production systems. It has also focused attention on including prices or the marketing of the final product as a direct component of the overall analysis. From the concept of matching nutrient needs of the cow with nutrients in grazed forages we initiated research using lactation (i.e., calving and weaning date) of the calf as a primary means to match the cow to forage. Previously most research and production systems had attempted to match the forage to the cow with various practices such as seeding range or pasture land to non-native grasses to meet a nutrient void of cattle in native range plants. A summary of impacts of our system work follows.

Extension education impacts: Reports of our research and concepts have been presented at meetings and symposia in Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Missouri, Montana, Iowa, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Ohio, Oregon, Mexico, and Canada. These presentations have been to multi-state producer symposia, National Cattlemen Beef Association cattlemen’s college, state Beef Cattle Association meetings and seminars, IRM schools, university field days, annual meetings of cattle breed associations, national and state veterinary association meetings, classes sponsored within states for certification credits for veterinarians, lectures and seminars for university beef system classes, county and area extension meetings, and training for professionals in industries allied to beef production (especially feed manufacturing). This work resulted in two field days at the University of Nebraska Gudmundsen Sandhills (GSL) in 1996 and 1999 with attendance of over 225 from multiple states at each field day. The systems research has also resulted in numerous visits to GSL by beef producers, extension educators, allied industry and scientists and students from across the United States and several foreign countries. We estimate that this work has been presented to over 4,000 people in each of the last five years. The Nebraska Ranch Practicum, a seven-day school for producers, was a direct spin-off of the work from this team.

While the interest in our work is noteworthy, the greatest impacts may be on the beef industry itself. It is our assessment that we have brought a focus on grazing and management systems and practices across the United States that reduce production costs, increase returns, improve sustainability, bring greater attention to the importance of holistic management, and inventorying resources.

Production impacts: It is difficult to estimate the full impacts of our research and extension programming on the beef industry. We have had contact with or are aware of a number of ranches (several with inventories of more than 5,000 cows) that have adopted our concepts and technology, in Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas, Utah, and Nevada. Those adopting our concepts have significantly changed the length of grazing time during the year, calving dates, weaning dates, management of yearling cattle and meadow management. Economic analyses of our production systems show potential increase in net returns of $50 to $90 per cow annually. If these practices were applied to 250,000 cows (which is only 50% of the cows in the Sandhills alone) the impact on the industry would be $12.5 million annually. A significant fact in adopting our concepts to cattle production systems is that capital outlays are generally not required nor is risk increased. In addition the use of fossil fuels would be greatly reduced since hay harvesting and feeding activities are greatly reduced.

Research impacts: The effort of our interdisciplinary team has resulted in numerous theses and dissertations, journal articles, symposia and extension reports. Two papers have been published on methodology for measuring forage intake in grazing cattle. Protein and digestibility of Sandhills range and subirrigated meadow have been established for models representing the full calendar year and have been published. This data set includes Degraded Intake Protein (DIP) and Undegraded Intake Protein (UIP) needed for application of the 1996 NRC Nutrient Requirements for Beef Cattle. The DIP and UIP are the most complete set of data published on grazed forages of which we are aware. The systems research has lead to research on fundamental questions for segments of the systems. Examples of these segmented research are establishment of DIP requirements for cows gazing dormant forages, forage intake of cows and calves at various times of the year and production cycle, and finding the first limiting nutrients for cows, calves and yearling cattle at various times of the year and production cycle. Establishing first limiting nutrients has allowed us to solve basic nutrition problems within complex production systems. Prior to our publication, “Extended grazing systems for improving economic returns from Nebraska Sandhills cow/calf operations,” the term “Extended Grazing” was not apparent in research or extension publications. Since that time “Extended Grazing” has appeared in scientific publications and numerous extension and production symposia. Our research on matching nutrient requirements of the cow with nutrients in grazed forages has resulted in initiation of research on calving date in Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Missouri, and Utah. It is our assessment that our interdisciplinary systems research is on the cutting edge of range beef systems research in the United States and beyond.

Education Impacts: Seven students have received degrees partially based on their research efforts led by one or more of the team members. Six other students are in various stages of completing their graduate degrees. All of the research conducted by these students applies directly to the work of this team. The theses and dissertations as well as the areas of concentration for those students still actively pursuing degrees are shown below.

Completed Theses and Dissertations

Villalobos, G. 1993. Integration of complementary forage with native range for efficient beef production in the Sandhills of Nebraska. PhD Dissertation, Dept. of Animal Science, UNL.

Hollingsworth-Jenkins, K. J. 1994. Escape protein, rumen degradable protein, or energy as the first limiting nutrient of nursing calves grazing Sandhills range. PhD Dissertation, Dept. of Animal Science, UNL.

Lamb, J. B. 1996. Plant maturity effects on intake, digestibility, and rumen kinetics of leaf and stem fractions of Sandhills grasses in beef steers. PhD Dissertation, Dept. of Animal Science, UNL.

Downs, D. 1997. Diet composition of Sandhills winter range and compensatory growth of yearling steers during summer grazing. M.S. Thesis, Dept. of Animal Science, UNL.

Lardy, G. P. 1997. Protein supplementation of calves and cows grazing Sandhills range and subirrigated meadow. PhD Dissertation, Dept. of Animal Science, UNL.

Sandberg, R. E. 1998. Efficacy of N-alkanes as markers to predict forage digestibility. M.S. Thesis, Dept. of Animal Science, UNL.

Horney, M.. 1999. Spring grazing: A management alternative for Sandhills wet meadows. PhD Dissertation, Dept. of Animal Science, UNL.

Graduate Students in Various Phases of Completion
Hoegemeyer, Chris. Nearing completion of M. S. in Agricultural Economics. Thesis topic is a Discrete Stochasitic Programming model for the summer/spring calving systems.

Jordan, D. J. About to take qualifying exam for PhD in Animal Science. Dissertation topic compares the impacts of alternative wintering systems for March born calves on the breakeven costs for the steers in the feedlot.

Hopkin, Amelia. In the middle of research and coursework for an M.S. in Animal Science. Her research is examining the production and economic impacts of alternative wintering/weaning treatments for the June born calves.

Richardson, Devon. Nearing completion of M.S. in Agronomy. Her research is based on alternative grazing schemes for Sandhills subirrigated meadows.

Patterson, Trey. About to take qualifying exams for PhD in Animal Science. Dissertation research examines heifer development under low input situations in the Sandhills and establishing database for Sandhills grasses.

Wilson, Casey. Working on a PhD in Animal Science. M.S. research (being completed) examined the effects of summer grazing on feedlot performance of steer calves.

Economic Analysis

The results of the economic analysis indicate that a June (summer) calving system is a potential alternative to the traditional March (spring) calving system. Reduced costs of harvested forage (hay) fed to the lactating cow in the June system more than offset the higher purchased feed costs. Labor requirements for both feeding and calving, often a limiting factor in many production agriculture enterprises, are substantially lower in the June system compared to the March system. Average economic net returns indicate that sale of a calf at weaning is the most profitable strategy for either system. If a calf is grown past wean, average economic returns suggest the most profitable strategy is to retain ownership of a March-born calf through the feedlot and sell at slaughter or to retain ownership of a June-born calf grown as a yearling and sell at slaughter. Average financial net returns indicate selling at any stage of production for either the June or March system will generate a positive cash flow.

As noted earlier, these results are based only on the average net returns and overlook other characteristics (variance and skewness) of the net returns distribution. Production agriculture is subject to several sources of economic risk: output price risk, yield risk, and input and cost risk. A simple comparison of average net returns from alternative production strategies overlooks risk. A comprehensive comparison of the net returns from the June and March calving systems should also include an evaluation of the economic risks involved.

We first examined risk through a sensitivity analysis approach. However, rather than varying input costs or prices by a certain percentage, we grouped production data by worst and best performance, as measured by the ADG between wean and into the feedlot, and recalculated economic and financial net returns. This allows comparison of net returns for worst, best, and average performance (Table 7).

The economic net returns indicate that a June-born steer calf sold at wean results in the highest profit even when comparing the worst performance of the June system to the best performance of the March system. Compared to selling a March-born steer calf at wean, selling a June-born steer calf at wean generates $62 to $72 in a best performance year and $70 to $77 returns in a worst performance year higher. During a best performance year, post-wean economic returns are about $28 higher at slaughter for a June-born yearling steer compared to a feedlot-finished March-born calf fed. Conversely, in a worst performance year, the feedlot-finished March-born calf fed generates $23 to $28 higher return than the feedlot-finished June-born yearling.

The financial net returns, with one exception, indicate that the June system generates positive cash flow higher than the March system at any production stage, regardless of performance. In a worst performance year, a feedlot-finished March-born calf fed steer generates $16 to $18 higher revenue over expenses than a feedlot-finished June-born calf fed steer.

This sensitivity analysis, though useful for comparison of net returns under different expected performance levels, is still based on average net returns. Several methods for evaluating economic risk consider the variance in net returns. Mathematical programming methods (MOTAD, Target-MOTAD, safety first programming) and E-V (expected value-variance) analysis have commonly been used. However, these methods presume that the net returns distributions are normally distributed and that producers (decision makers) are risk averse. Generalized stochastic dominance (GSD) analysis, on the other hand, does not make a priori assumptions regarding the net returns distributions or the risk attitude of decision makers.

[The mathematical discussion that follows is omitted, as the many special characters cannot be shown in this plain text version. Please see the full report.]

GSD analysis was used in this research to identify economically risk efficient cow/calf production strategy or strategies from among the March and June calving systems. Initially, the average performance net returns were ranked. Then, the average, best, and worst performance net returns distributions were evaluated against each other. Sell strategies, corresponding to the stages of production, were coded as shown in Table 8 and ranked based on the number of alternative strategies dominated.

The results of the GSD analysis of economic and financial net returns (average performance) are presented in Table 7 and Table 10, respectively. FSD, SSD, and SDRF analysis of the economic net returns identifies sale at wean of June-born calf feds from the meadow breeding treatment (strategy 7) as economically risk efficient. Sale at wean of a June-born calf fed from the range breeding treatment (strategy 4) was ranked second followed by sale at wean of a March-born calf fed (strategy 1).

FSD and SSD analysis of the financial net returns identifies six strategies as risk efficient. However, the more discriminating SDRF analysis identifies sale of a yearling calf from the meadow breeding treatment prior to grazing (strategy 13) as the risk efficient strategy for strongly risk preferring to slightly risk averse producers. Moderately risk averse producers would be indifferent between five alternatives, all in the June calving system. The risk efficient strategy for strongly risk averse producers is sell at slaughter of a June-born calf fed from the range breeding treatment (strategy 6). Regardless of the risk attitude, the SDRF analysis of the financial net returns ranks the three March calving system strategies very low and often least preferred.

When economic and financial net returns under best, worst, and average performance conditions are evaluated together, a more comprehensive analysis is allowed (Tables 11 and 12). More specifically, the rankings indicate, for example, whether one strategy under worst performance conditions would be preferred to another strategy under best or average performance conditions. As might be expected, GSD analysis of the economic net returns identifies sale at wean of a June-born calf from the meadow breeding treatment, under best performance conditions (strategy 7B), as risk efficient regardless of the risk attitude. Interestingly, the same strategy, but under worst performance conditions (strategy 7W) is preferred to that under average performance conditions (strategy 7A). Sale at wean from both breeding treatments, even under worst performance conditions (strategies 7W and 4W) are ranked higher than sale at wean from the March system under best performance conditions. GSD analysis of the financial net returns identifies sale of June-born yearling calves prior to grazing, under best performance conditions (strategies 10B and 13B), as risk efficient for strongly risk preferring to slightly risk averse producers. None of the March system strategies, even under best performance conditions, are ranked among the top 15 strategies.

The results of these analyses are important in that they suggest June calving is sustainable, both from an economic and cash flow standpoint. From the economic standpoint, the March system generates a positive return by selling the steer calf at wean or at slaughter after feedlot finishing, with the former being ranked higher when risk is considered. Sale at wean or of a feedlot-finished yearling from the June system returns an economic profit, with the former ranked higher when considering risk. Sale at all stages from both the March and June systems generates positive cash flow, however, the advantage is clearly with the June system.

References for economic analysis

Baidu-Forson, J. and A. Bationo. “An Economic Evaluation of a Long-Term Experiment on Phosphorus and Manure Amendments to Sandy Sahelian Soils: Using a Stochastic Dominance Model.” Fertilizer Research 33(3, 1992):193-202.

Bezuneh, M. “Application of Stochastic Dominance Criteria to Evaluate Bean Production Strategies in Central Province, Zambia.” Agr. Econ. 7(3, 1992):289-99.

Brown, W. J. and S. N. Kulshreshtha. “The Risk Efficiency of Dryland and Irrigated Crop Rotations in Saskatchewan.” Jour. Amer. Soc. Of Farm Managers 55(1991):43-52.

Bunn, D. W. Applied Decision Analysis. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1984.

Carriker, G. L. “Factor-Input Demand Subject to Economic and Environmental Risk: Nitrogen Fertilizer in Kansas Dryland Corn Production.” Rev. Agr. Econ. 17(January 1995):77-89.

Harper, J. K., J. R. Williams, R. O. Burton, Jr., and K. W. Kelley. “Effect of Risk Preferences on Incorporation of Double-Crop Soybeans into Traditional Rotations.” Rev. Agr. Econ. 13(July 1991):185-200.

King, R. P. and L. J. Robison. “An Interval Approach to Measuring Decision Maker Preferences.” Amer. J. Agr. Econ. 63(August 1981):510-20.

Kramer, R. A. and R. D. Pope. “Participation in Farm Commodity Programs: A Stochastic Dominance Analysis.” Amer. J. Agr. Econ. 63(February 1981):119-128.

Larson, J. A., R. K. Roberts, D. D.Tyler, B. N. Duck, and S. P. Slinsky. “Stochastic Dominance Analysis of Winter Cover Crop and Nitrogen Fertilizer Systems for No-Tillage Corn.” J. Soil and Water Conserv. 53(3, 1998):285-88.

Love, R. O. and L. J. Robison. “An Empirical Analysis of the Intertemporal Stability of Risk Preference.” South. J. Agr. Econ. 16(July 1984):159-65.

Maynard, L. J., J. K. Harper, and L. D. Hoffman. “Impact of Risk Preferences on Crop Rotation Choice.” Agr. and Res. Econ. Rev. 26(April 1997):106-14.

McCarl, B. A. “Generalized Stochastic Dominance: An Empirical Examination.” South. J. Agr. Econ. 22(December 1990):49-55.

McCarl, B. A. and D. A. Bessler. “Estimating an Upper Bound on the Pratt Risk Aversion Coefficient when the Utility Function is Unknown.” Austral. J. Agr. Econ. 33(April 1989):56-63.

Musser, W. N., B. V. Tew, and J. E. Epperson. “An Economic Examination of an Integrated Pest Management Production system with a Contrast Between E-V and Stochastic Dominance Analysis.” South. J. Agr. Econ. 13(July 1981):119-24.

Raskin R. and M. J. Cochran. “Interpretations and Transformations of Scale for the Pratt-Arrow Absolute Risk Aversion Coefficient: Implications for Generalized Stochastic Dominance.” West. J. Agr. Econ. 11(December 1986):204-10.

Robison, L. J and P. J. Barry. The Competitive Firm’s Response to Risk. New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987.

Williams, J. R., G. L. Carriker, G. A. Barnaby, and J. K. Harper. “Crop Insurance and Disaster Assistance Designs for Wheat and Grain Sorghum.” Amer. J. Agr. Econ. 75(May 1993):435-447.

Zacharias, T. P. and A. H. Grube. “An Economic Evaluation of Weed Control Methods Used in Combination with Crop Rotation: A Stochastic Dominance Approach.” N. Cent. J. Agr. Econ. 6(January 1984):113-20.

Farmer Adoption

Reports of our project have been presented in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming, Utah, Mexico, and Canada. These presentations have been to multi-state producer symposia, National Cattlemen Beef Association cattlemen’s college, state Beef Cattle Association meetings and seminars, IRM schools, university field days, annual meetings of cattle breed associations, national and state veterinary association meetings, classes sponsored within states for certification credits for veterinarians, lectures and seminars for university beef system classes, county and area extension meetings, and training for professionals in industries allied to beef production (especially feed manufacturing). This work resulted in two field days at the University of Nebraska Gudmundsen Sandhills (GSL) field days in 1996 and 1999 with attendance of over 225 from multiple states at each field day. We estimate that this work has been presented to over 4,000 people in each of the last five years. While the interest in our work is noteworthy, the greatest impacts may be on the beef industry itself. It is our assessment that we have brought a focus on grazing and management systems and practices across the United States that reduce production costs, increase returns, improve sustainability, bring greater attention to the importance of holistic management, and inventorying resources. We estimate that as many as 250,000 head of cattle may have impacted to date by our project. If a $75/calf increase in returns were realized for each calf impacted, the beef cattle industry would realize an increase in returns of over $18 million annually.

Involvement of Other Audiences

See previous section. Involvement of other audiences has been primarily veterinarians and allied industry (primarily feed manufactures). Veterinarians have attended our outreach programs and have sought our information. Feed manufactures have consulted with us on formulation of supplements appropriate for extended grazing systems.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Refereed

Applied

Adams, D. C., R. T. Clark, T. J. Klopfenstein and J. D. Volesky. 1996. Matching the cow with forage resources. Rangelands 18:57-62

Lamb, J. B., D. C. Adams, T. J. Klopfenstein, W. W . Stroup, and G. P. Lardy. 1997. Range or Meadow regrowth and weaning effects on 2-year-old-cows. J. Range Manage. 50:16-19.

Norton, N. A., R. T. Clark, P. E. Reece and K .M. Eskridge. 1997. Quality as a factor in the optimal choice of fertilization and harvest date of meadow hay. J. Prod. Agric. 10:551-557 and 509-510. (ARD No. 11651)

Adams, D. C., R. T. Clark, P. E. Reece, and J. D. Volesky. 1998. Research and education for managing resources within the Nebraska Sandhills: the Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory. Rangelands 20:4-8. ARD J. Ser. No. 12142.

Lardy, G. P., D. C. Adams, T. J. Klopfenstein, and R. T. Clark. 1999. First limiting nutrient for summer calving cows grazing autumn-winter range. J. Range Manage. 52:317-326.

Methods/Basic:

Hollingsworth, K. J., D. C. Adams, T. J. Klopfenstein, J. B. Lamb, and G. Villalobos. 1995. Supplement and forage effects on fecal estimates from an intra-ruminal marker device. J. Range Manage. 48:137-140.

Volesky, J. D., W. H. Schacht, and P. E. Reece. 1999. Leaf area, visual obstruction, and standing crop relationships on Sandhills Rangeland. J. Range Manage. 52:494-499.

Reece, P. E., J. D. Volesky, and W. H. Schacht. 2000. End-of-season visual obstruction after summer grazing in the Nebraska Sandhills. J. Range Manage. (in press).

Sandberg, R. E., D. C. Adams, T. J. Klopfenstein, and R. J. Grant. 2000. N-alkane as an internal marker for predicting digestibility of forages. J. Range Manage. 52: 159-163.

Abstracts

Horney, M. R., D. C. Adams, W. H. Schacht, S. S. Waller, T. J. Klopfenstein, and R. T. Clark. 1996. Grazing subirrigated meadow as an alternative to traditional haying in the Nebraska Sandhills. Proc. 49th Ann. Meeting Soc. Range Manage. Wichita, KS. p.35.

Lamb, J. B., D. C. Adams, T. J. Klopfenstein, and R. E. Sandberg. 1996. Season of grazing effects on intake, digestibility, fill and forage quality of steers grazing Sandhills subirrigated meadow or upland range. Proc. 49th Ann. Meeting Soc. Range Manage. Wichita KS. p.43.

Lardy, G. P., T. J. Klopfenstein, D. C. Adams, R. T. Clark, R. A. Mass, and J. B. Lamb. 1996. Escape protein content of meadow and native range in Nebraska Sandhills. J. Anim. Sci. 74(suppl.1):284.

Lardy, G. P., D. C. Adams, T. J. Klopfenstein, R. T. Clark, and J. B. Lamb. 1996. First limiting nutrient for summer calving cows grazing native Sandhills range. J. Anim. Sci. 74(Suppl. 1):287.

Downs, D., G. E. Erickson, D. C. Adams, and T. J. Klopfenstein. 1997. Effect of winter rate of gain on subsequent grazing and finishing performance. J. Anim. Sci. 75 (suppl. 1):238.

Volesky, J. D., W. H. Schacht, and P. E. Reece. 1997. Leaf area index, standing crop, and stocking rate relationships on Nebraska Sandhills rangeland. 50th An. Mtg. Soc. Range Manage., Rapid City, SD. p. 11.

Horney, M. R., W. Schacht, D. C. Adams, T. J. Klopfenstein, and W. W. Stroup. 1998. Effects of replacing spring hay feeding with subirrigated meadow grazing on cow/calf production. J. Animal Sci. 76(suppl.1):193.

Wilson, C. B., T. J. Klopfenstein, and D. C. Adams. 1999. Undegraded intake protein supplementation of steers on native Sandhills range. J. Anim. Sci. 76(suppl. 1):193.

Lardy, G. P., D. C. Adams, T. J. Klopfenstein, J. B. Lamb, and R. T. Clark. 1996. Predicting nutrient needs of grazing cattle with a metabolizeable protein system. Proc. 49th Ann. Meeting Soc. Range Manage. Wichita KS. p.33.

Sandberg, R. E., D. C. Adams, T. J. Klopfenstein, and R. J. Grant. 1998. N-alkane as an internal marker for predicting digestibility of forages. J. Anim. Sci. 76(suppl. 1):201.

Proceedings of Meetings and Field Days

Clark, R. T., and D. C. Adams. 1994. Matching the cow’s production cycle and the forage resource to reduce input costs. p. 19-25. Proc. Nebraska Integrated Resource Management Conference, Kearney, NE.

Clark, R., D. Adams, G. Lardy, G. Deutscher, J. Lamb, and T. Klopfenstein. 1994. Improving sustainability of cow calf operations using natural forages. p. 33-34. Proc. Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Field Day. WCC 94-01, Sept.

Lamb, J., D. Adams, T. Klopfenstein, and R. Sandberg. . 1994. The effect season of grazing and forage type has on dry matter intake, digestibility, rumen kinetics. p. 29. Proc. Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln, Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Field Day. WCC 94-01, Sept

Lamb, J., D. Adams, T. Klopfenstein, L. White, and R. Grant. 1994. Plant maturity effects on intake, digestibility, particulate distribution, and retention time of subirrigated meadow stem and leaf fractions. p. 28-29. Proc. Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Field Day. WCC 94-01, Sept.

Lardy, G., D. Adams, T. Klopfenstein, and J. Lamb. 1994. Seasonal changes in crude protein of diet samples from Sandhills upland range and subirrigated meadow. p. 26-27. Proc. Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Field Day. WCC 94-01, Sept.

Horney, M., R. D. C. Adams, S. S. Waller, L. E. Moser, and J. B. Lamb. 1995. Grazing as an alternative to haying subirrigated meadows in the Nebraska Sandhills. Soc. Range Manage. 48th Ann. Meeting, Phoenix, AZ. p. 28.

Calving Seasons Research Report 1995-1996. 1996. Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Field Day, Sept. WCC 96-01. 33 p.

Clark, R. T., D. C. Adams, G. P. Lardy, and T. J. Klopfenstein. 1997. Matching calving date with forage nutrients: Production and economic impacts. Proc. The Range Beef Cow Symposium XV, Rapid City S.D. p. 223-232.

Clark, R. T. and D. C. Adams. 1997. Extended grazing systems for beef cattle: Production and profit considerations. Proceedings of the workshop “Extension’s Presence and Impact Within a Changing Livestock Industry,” 1997 NCR Extension Specialists Tri-annual Workshop, Univ. of NE., Lincoln, May 19-22.

Adams, D. C., R. T. Clark, T. J. Klopfenstein, and G. P. Lardy. 1998. Reducing use of harvested forages by matching nutrient requirements of the cow with nutrients in grazed forages. P. 83-91. In: Proc., IRM Producer Education Seminars, Annual meeting of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Denver, CO. p.83-91.

Clark, R. T. and D. C. Adams. 1998. Low input cow/calf systems. In: Proc. for Integrated Resource Management Conference on Managing for Profitability in the Beef Industry, Kearney, NE, Nov. 5-6. Pp. 1-14.

Downs, D., D.C. Adams, T. J. Klopfenstein, W. H. Schacht, and P. E. Reece. 1998. Effect of summer grazing on crude protein and digestibility of winter diets of cattle in the Nebraska Sandhills. Proc. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Grazing management field day: Upland range and meadows. p.15-17. WCC 98-01.

Patterson, T., T. J. Klopfenstein, D. C. Adams, W. H. Schacht, P. E. Reece, J. A. Musgrave, A. E. Johnson. 1998. Summer by fall grazing interaction effects on protein content and digestibility of fall diets in the Nebraska Sandhills. Proc. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Grazing Management field day: Upland range and meadows. p. 4-6. WCC 98-01.

Sandberg, R. E., D. C. Adams, T. J. Klopfenstein, R. J. Grant. 1998. N-alkane as an internal marker for predicting digestibility of forages. Proc. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory grazing management field day: Upland range and meadows. p. 18-21. WCC 98-01.

Richardson, D. M. and J. D. Volesky. 1998. Stocking rate and grazing effects on subirrigated meadows. p. 37-39. In: Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Res. Rep. WCC 98-01.

Volesky, J. D., D. C. Adams, and R. T. Clark. 1998. Windrow grazing and baled hay-fed strategies for over-wintering calves. Proc. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory grazing management field day: Upland range and meadows. p. 32-36. WCC 98-01.

Volesky, J. D., R. T. Clark, D. C. Adams, and I. G. Rush. 1998. Subirrigated meadow and upland range grazing strategies for yearling steers. Proc. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory grazing management field day: Upland range and meadows. p.28-31. WCC 98-01.

Volesky, J. D., 1998. Subirrigated meadow management. p. 31-39. In: Proceedings Integrated Resource Management – Managing for Profitability in the Beef Industry. Kearney, NE.

Adams, D. C., and R. T. Clark. 1999. Matching the cow with farm resources. In: Proc. 28th Ann. Cornbelt Cow-Calf Conference. Ottumwa, IA, 27 Feb, 1999.

Adams, D. C., R. T. Clark., and R. Sandberg. 1999. Matching calving date to forage resources. Proc. Tri-State (Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska) Cow/Calf Symposium St. Francis, KS. p.18-27

Adams. D. C., R. T. Clark, I. G. Rush, J. Musgrave, and R. Sandberg. 1999. Weaning and winter nutrition effects on cow and calf production. In: University of Nebraska Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Field Day Report, WCC-99-1026. Pp. 17-19.

Clark, R. T., D. C. Adams, and R. E. Sandberg. 1999. Alternative calving dates: Production and economic impacts. In: Proceedings of Four-State Beef Conference, Jan. 13-14. Holton, KS; St. Joseph, MO; Lewis, IA. and Tecumseh, NE.

Clark, R. T., D. C. Adams, G. Carriker, R. Sandberg, T. Milton, J. Musgrave, T. J. Klopfenstein, G. P. Lardy. 1999. March vs. June calving systems: Production and economic considerations. In: University of Nebraska Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Field Day Report, WCC-99-1026. Pp. 1-10.

Hoegemeyer, C., G. Helmers, and R. Clark. 1999. Economic optimization and a decision analysis for summer calving. In: University of Nebraska Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Field Day Report, WCC-99-1026. Pp. 11-14.

Hopkin, A., D. C. Adams, T. J. Klopfenstein, T. Milton, and R. T. Clark. 1999. Cow-calf-yearling beef production systems. In: University of Nebraska Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Field Day Report, WCC-99-1026. Pp. 15-16.

Patterson, H. H. III, D. C. Adams, T. J. Klopfenstein, W. H. Schacht, P. E. Reece, J. A. Musgrave, and A. E. Johnson. 1999. Summer grazing and fall stocking rate effects on protein content and digestibility of fall range diets. Proc. Soc. Range Manage. / Amer. Forage and Grassl. Council 52nd Ann. Meeting 52:60.

Patterson, H. H. III, D. C. Adams, T. J. Klopfenstein, and B. Teichert. 1999. Supplementing yearling heifers to meet metabolizable protein requirements. In: University of Nebraska Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Field Day Report, WCC-99-1026. Pp. 25-29.

Rush, I. G., D. C. Adams, J. Musgrave, N. Guzman. 1999. Finishing calves weaned early and late. Proc. Univ. Nebraska Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory field day. p. 20-21.

Volesky, J. D., D. C. Adams, and R. T. Clark. 1999. Windrow grazing and baled, hay-feeding strategies for wintering calves. Proc. Soc. Range Manage. / Amer. Forage and Grassl. Council 52nd Ann. Meeting 52:86.

Volesky, J., D. C. Adams, R. T. Clark, W. Schacht, D. Richardson. 1999. Grazing management of wet meadows. In: University of Nebraska Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Field Day Report, WCC-99-1026. Pp. 33-36.

Adams, D. C., and R. T. Clark. 2000. Managing forage resources and extending grazing for efficient beef production. In: Proc. 20th Ann. Utah Beef Cattle Field Day, Managing forage resources for efficient beef production. p. 1-11. Provo Utah.

Research Reports

Horney, M., D. Adams, W. Schacht, W. Waller, and T. Klopfenstein. 1996. An alternative to haying subirrigated meadows in the Nebraska Sandhills. Beef Cattle Rep. p. 6-7. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln MP 66-A. Lincoln, NE.

Lamb, J., D. Adams, T. Klopfenstein, and G. Lardy. 1996. Range or meadow regrowth grazing and weaning effects on two year-old cows. Beef Cattle Rep. p. 3-5. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln MP 66-A. Lincoln, NE.

Lardy, G., D. Adams, T. Klopfenstein, and J. Lamb. 1996. Use of a metabolizable protein system to predict deficiencies in diets of cattle grazing Sandhills native range and subirrigated meadow. Beef Cattle Rep. p. 10-13. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln MP 66-A. Lincoln, NE.

Lardy, G., D. Adams, T. Klopfenstein, D. Clark, and J. Lamb. 1997. Seasonal changes in protein degradabilities of Sandhills native range and subirrigated meadow diets and application of a metabolizable protein system. Beef Cattle Rep. p. 3-5. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln MP 67-A. Lincoln, NE.

Lardy, G., T. Klopfenstein, D. Adams, J. Lamb, and D. Clark. 1997. First limiting nutrient of native range for summer calving cows during the breeding season and late lactation. Beef Cattle Rep. p. 6-8. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln MP 67-A. Lincoln, NE.

Lardy G., T. Klopfenstein, D. Adams, J. Lamb, D. Clark. 1997. Rumen degradable protein requirement of gestating summer calving beef cows grazing dormant native Sandhills range. Beef Cattle Rep. p. 8-10. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln MP 67-A. Lincoln, NE.

Downs, D., D. Adams, T. Klopfenstein, W. Schacht, and P. Reece. 1998. Effect of summer grazing on crude protein and digestibility of winter diets of cattle in the Nebraska Sandhills. Beef Cattle Rep. p.20-21. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln MP 69-A. Lincoln, NE.

Downs, D., G. Erickson, D. Adams, and T. Klopfenstein. 1998. Effect of winter gain on summer rate of gain and finishing performance of yearling steers. Beef Cattle Rep. p. 63-65. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln MP 69-A. Lincoln, NE.

Lardy, G., D. Adams, D. Clark, T. Klopfenstein, J. Johnson, and A. Applegarth. 1998. Spring versus summer calving for the Nebraska Sandhills: Production characteristics. Beef cattle Rep. p. 3-5. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln MP 69-A. Lincoln, NE.

Lardy, G., D. Adams, R. Clark, and T. Klopfenstein. 1998. Performance of summer- and spring-born calves finished as calves or yearlings. Beef cattle Rep. p.5-7. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln MP 69-A. Lincoln, NE.

Lardy, G., D. Adams, T. Klopfenstein, J. Ueckert, and R. Clark. 1998. Escape protein supplementation and weaning effects on calves grazing meadow regrowth. Beef Cattle Rep. p.14-16. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln MP 69-A. Lincoln, NE.

Jordan, D. J., G. Erickson, T. Klopfenstein., D. Adams, T. Milton, and R. Cooper. 1999. Steer performance within summer grazing systems. Beef Cattle Rep. p. 21-23. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln, MP 71-A. Lincoln, NE.

Patterson, T., T. Klopfenstein, D. Adams, W. Schacht, P. Reece, J. Musgrave, and A. Johnson. 1999. Summer grazing date and fall grazing intensity effects on protein content and digestibility of fall diets in the Nebraska Sandhills. Beef Cattle Rep. P. 5-6. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln, MP 71-A Lincoln, NE.

Sandberg, R., D. Adams, T. Klopfenstein, and R. Grant. 1999. N-alkane as an internal marker for predicting digestibility of forages. Beef Cattle Rep. p. 63-65. Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln MP 71-A. Lincoln, NE.

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

Heifer development (part of Objective 2): Heifer development is critical to productivity and profitability. Because of the time to produce, develop and rebreed a heifer, it was not possible to complete this aspect of the June and March calving-system research. A three-year study was initiated in 1998 to evaluate heifer development within the June and March calving systems. Because problems of developing heifers are different between the June and March calving systems, treatments for the two systems are different and comparisons are being made within calving, rather than between calving systems. In the March calving system, two target weights are being evaluated. The prebreeding target weights are 55% (660 lb) and 60% (720 lb) of mature weight. The two target weights are produced by varying the daily gain during the winter. Results from the first of three groups (i.e., years) of heifers, show that heifers in the 55% target weight treatment calved two days later in March as 2-year-olds, and weaned calves averaging about 10 pounds less at weaning than heifers in the 60% target weight treatment. Heifers in the 55% target weight treatment had a higher pregnancy rate as yearlings (94% vs. 87%) and a higher rebreeding percentage (91% vs. 88%) than heifers in the 60% target weight treatment. Within the June calving system, heifers were developed to calve about one month earlier (May) than the mature cows or to calve with the cows (June). Pregnancy rate for both treatments was 92% during the first year of the 3-year study. While trends exist, the number of animals is too small to draw reliable conclusions from. It is essential that this work be completed.

Weaning systems for March calving cows (Objective 2): Calving date was one method to match the cow with nutrients in grazed forages. Weaning date is another method to match nutrient requirements of the cow with grazed forages. Weaning the calf lowers the cow’s nutrient requirements by eliminating the need for nutrients to produce milk. Cows thin in the late fall are generally thin at calving in March. Weaning in the late summer or early fall is expected to maintain higher body condition on the cow through the fall and winter grazing than calving in the late fall. A higher body condition in the fall may affect cost of wintering the cow and the viability of grazing low quality forages during the winter. Weaning date also affects calf production and finishing the calf for slaughter. This work is unique in that cows are maintained within a weaning supplement system over four calf crops to determine if effects during previous years affect subsequent years. Weaning date and protein supplement systems have resulted in highly variable body condition score between systems. Mean pregnancy rate from two breeding seasons is greater for cows in the August weaning than November weaning system and greater for cows receiving no protein supplement than cows receiving protein supplement during winter grazing. Steer calves weaned in August are finished for slaughter earlier than steer calves weaned in November. Daily gains during the finish period are greater for November weaned calves than August weaned calves, but August weaned calves require fewer pounds of feed per pound gained. Research to date looks encouraging but additional time is needed in the experiment to evaluate the systems and for reliable economic analysis.

Weaning systems for June calving cows (extension of Objectives 1 and 2): We hypothesized for a June calving-yearling system that grazing of the steer calf to be grazed as a yearling could be extended through winter on range by delaying weaning from January to April. The result would be year long grazing for the cow and grazing from birth of the calf to entry in the feedlot for finishing at about 14 months of age. This work is in early stages but it appears that grazing of the cow-calf pair can be extended from January to April. The economics will be critical to the interpretation of these systems.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.