Grass-Legume pastures to increase economic and environmental sustainability of livestock production

Final Report for SW10-088

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2010: $209,907.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Grant Recipient: USDA-ARS
Region: Western
State: Utah
Principal Investigator:
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Project Information

Abstract:

High costs of nitrogen fertilizer and increased environmental stewardship necessitates a renewed interest in mixed grass-legume pastures, and past grass-legume research is not indicative of the irrigated, rotational grazing systems in the western U.S. This research compared the forage production, livestock performance, and economics of grazing pastures of tall fescue-alfalfa, tall fescue-birdsfoot trefoil, and tall fescue monoculture with and without nitrogen fertilizer. This Sustainable Agricultural Project Team showed that a pasture mixture of tall fescue and the condensed-tannin-containing legume, birdsfoot trefoil, improved nitrogen utilization and steer weights, as compared to using commercial fertilizer on tall fescue. They also demonstrated, via in-vitro studies, that grass-legume mixtures with and without supplemental nutritive energy improved ruminal nitrogen utilization resulting in less ammonia and methane production. While yearly forage yields of grass-legume mixtures were slightly lower than fertilized tall fescue, small-plot studies determined that certain grass-legume mixtures and ratios were more productive than fertilized grass monocultures. Analyses of leachate samples indicated that grass-legume mixtures result in lower nitrate concentrations in leachate, compared to N fertilizer; and, thus, reduce groundwater contamination. Finally, the tall fescue-legume mixtures doubled the economic return when compared to fertilized tall fescue monocultures. Multiple on-farm tours (at the participating producer’s farms), research station field days, and forage schools demonstrated these findings to approximately 600 participants. Results were also presented at national and international professional meetings and published in five peer-reviewed articles or proceedings, garnering attention from all over the world. Overall, these results suggest that grass-legume mixtures can improve livestock and pasture productivity and economic and environmental sustainability.

Project Objectives:

Three objectives and accompanying performance targets are listed below.

Objective 1. Compare livestock performance, economics, and subsequent carcass characteristics from beef grazing grass monocultures and low- and high-tannin grass-legume mixtures versus traditional feedlot-based finishing.

Year 1: Begin grazing; measure feed intake, body weight, dry matter and nutrient digestibility (crude protein and fiber); and determine feed efficiency and plasma urea nitrogen during growing and finishing periods.

Year 2: Collect second year data on feed intake, body weight, and dry matter and nutrient digestibility; determine feed efficiency and plasma urea nitrogen during growing and finishing period; and develop fact sheets for use at pasture walks and field days.

Year 3: Conduct continuous culture study using feed samples collected from growing and finishing periods to investigate ruminal fermentation characteristics (ammonia-N, VFA, methane, microbial protein synthesis, and digestibility); evaluate meat quality of steers slaughtered after the finishing period in year 1 and 2 (FA analysis, tenderness, sensory panel evaluation, and lipid and color stability measurements); and revise fact sheets for symposium.

Year 4: Complete data analysis and prepare journal manuscript(s).

Objective 2. Determine best possible grass-legume mixtures and plant densities that maximize pasture productivity and nutritional quality.

Year 1: Plot establishment (seed plots and measure frequency of establishment).

Year 2: Collect first year of plot yield, nutritional quality, and stand frequency; develop NIRS equation that separates species composition; and develop fact sheets for use at pasture walks and field days.

Year 3: Collect second year of plot yield, nutritional quality, and stand frequency and begin data analysis.

Year 4: Complete data analysis; revise fact sheet(s) and prepare journal manuscript.

Objective 3. Determine the effects of tannins on nutrient cycling in grazing systems.

Year 1: Pasture establishment and collect baseline soil and leachate data.

Year 2: Begin grazing and collect first year of soil, plant, and leachate data; sample analyses; and develop fact sheets for use at pasture walks and field days.

Year 3: Second year of collection of soil, plant, and leachate data; sample analyses; and begin data analysis.

Year 4: Complete data analysis; revise fact sheet(s) and prepare journal manuscript.

Introduction:

In the western U.S., the rising cost of nitrogen (N) fertilizer and land policies restricting grazing on public lands has increased the need for pastures capable of supporting increased livestock use (Guldan et al., 2000; Asay et al., 2001; Waldron et al., 2002). Pasture production can be increased by establishing improved plant materials and applying more intensive grazing systems and management, including supplemental irrigation (Jensen et al., 2001). Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) is a popular pasture species in the western U.S., due to its broad adaptation of many soil and climatic conditions and its response to supplemental irrigation (Waldron et al., 2002). Although, grass monoculture pastures are often preferred by producers because weeds and grazing can be easily managed (Beuselinck et al., 1994), the amount of N fertilizer needed to maintain high forage yields can be cost prohibitive (Moser et al., 1996). Research in the Intermountain West shows that the typical irrigated grass pasture needs between 114 to 170 kg ha-1 of N per year (Koenig et al., 2002). The rising cost of N fertilizer, coupled with the potential negative environmental effects of N application, have created a critical need to maintain or increase pasture production while reducing N fertilizer inputs (Solomon et al., 2011).

Although tall fescue can be productive in pure stands, pasture and livestock performance can be improved by introducing legumes into fescue pastures (Stephenson and Prosler, 1988; Hoveland et al., 1991). When grown in mixtures, perennial forage legumes can supply N to grasses (Carlsson and Huss-Dannelll, 2003; Nyfeler et al., 2011), potentially maintaining high grass forage yields with reduced N fertilizer. Legumes in a mixed pasture may also increase forage yields per se and improve the seasonal distribution of forage production, thereby increasing the ability of a pasture to support livestock grazing throughout the summer. In New Mexico, a binary mixture of tall fescue and alfalfa (Medicago sativa, L.) maintained seasonal yields and was superior to tall fescue monocultures (Lauriault et al., 2003). Other studies have shown the benefit of mixtures of various legumes and grasses on pasture yields and seasonal distribution (Guldan et al., 2000; Sleugh et al., 2000; Wen et al., 2002; Lauriault et al., 2005, 2006).

Grass-legume pastures can also improve livestock performance due to improved forage nutritive value. Research in Wisconsin reported that grass mixed with birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.) contained less NDF and greater CP than the grass monoculture (Zemenchik et al., 2002). Hoveland et al. (1981) reported greater average daily gains (ADG) with steers grazing tall fescue-birdsfoot trefoil compared to N-fertilized tall fescue monocultures. In Missouri, tall fescue-birdsfoot trefoil pastures increased ADG, as well as total grazing days (Wen et al., 2002). However, not all grass-legume mixtures perform equally as Mourino et al. (2003) reported that grass mixed with kura clover (Trifolium ambiguum Bieb.) had less fiber and greater CP and ADG than grass mixed with red clover (T. pratense L.). Persistence of pasture species is critical to the long-term viability of the grazing systems, and persistence under grazing is one of the greatest challenges to the use of birdsfoot trefoil in pastures (Blumenthal and McGraw, 1999). Wen et al. (2002), for example, found that birdsfoot trefoil stand decreased 56% within the first year of grazing. Similarly, Hoveland et al. (1991) reported that birdsfoot trefoil had declined to comprise only 3% of the forage by the third year of their study. In contrast, persistence of birdsfoot trefoil may be greater in the semiarid western U.S. (MacAdam et al., 2011).

Grazing reduces feed and machinery costs and manure handling and storage requirements. However, grazing animals accelerate nutrient cycling and increase nitrate leaching. Approximately 85% of the N ingested by animals is returned to the pasture as urine and feces; yet, only 10% of the total paddock receives urine and feces deposits (White et al., 2001). In fact, soils where cattle have urinated may contain the equivalent of up to 1000 kg N/ha applied as a single application (Haynes and Williams, 1993). Thus, both the quantity (which greatly exceeds plant needs) and the form (nitrates are highly mobile and leach) of N can result in nitrates readily moving past the root zone and into groundwater. Condensed tannins, as in birdsfoot trefoil, can potentially improve N utilization and shift excreted nitrogen from the urine to the feces, thereby reducing environmental impacts of grazing systems (Misselbrook et al., 2005; Slisinski et al., 2004).

These findings indicate a need to evaluate plant and animal performance on tall fescue-birdsfoot trefoil pastures under rotational grazing in an irrigated, naturally semiarid environment, as opposed to the previous evaluations under continuous grazing in humid regions. Additionally, grass-legume mixture research is needed that compares legumes with different tannin compositions, due to the potentially beneficial effects of tannins in birdsfoot trefoil on livestock performance.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Jong-Su Eun
  • Kevin Heaton
  • Clark Israelsen
  • Dr. Kevin Jensen
  • Dr. Rhonda Miller
  • Stuart Parkison
  • Dr. Michael Peel
  • ValJay Rigby
  • Dr. Joseph Robins
  • Dr. Donald Snyder
  • Richard Ward
  • Dr. Dale ZoBell

Research

Materials and methods:

Objective 1. Compare livestock performance, economics, and subsequent carcass characteristics from beef grazing grass monocultures and low- and high-tannin grass-legume mixtures versus traditional feedlot-based finishing.

Objective 1, component #1: Affect of nitrogen fertilization on growth performance, fermentation profiles, fatty acid composition, and carcass characteristics.

Angus crossbred beef steers were used to evaluate the effects of finishing beef cattle on pasture with or without N fertilization. As part of the study, fatty acid composition in subcutaneous adipose tissue was compared to beef steers finished on feedlot. Steers were arranged into three treatments: grazing on tall fescue (TF) with N fertilizer (TF+N), without N fertilizer (TF−N), or fed a TMR feedlot finishing diet (FLT) (FLT: fatty acid composition data only). Three replicated pastures or group pens with three steers per replicate were assigned into each treatment. A total of 168 kg of N fertilizer per hectare was applied in three split applications at 56 kg/ha to the TF+N. Grazing/feeding occurred from May through September in 2010 and 2011 (total of 16 weeks). Steers rotationally grazed on four 0.12-ha paddocks for seven days (each paddock) with a 28-day rotation interval. Subcutaneous adipose tissue biopsies were obtained on week 4, 12, and 16 (2010 only). Body weight data and pasture forage samples were collected every four weeks, whereas ruminal fluid was collected at week 4, 10, and 16. After the completion of 16 week grazing, ultrasound measurement was performed to assess carcass characteristics.

Objective 1, component #2: Affect of tall fescue-legume mixtures on forage production, steer gains, and economic returns.

This research compared the forage production, livestock performance, and economics of tall fescue-alfalfa (TF+ALF) and tall fescue-birdsfoot trefoil (TF+BFT) mixtures to tall fescue with (TF+N) and without nitrogen fertilizer (TF–N). Pastures, comprised of four 0.1-ha paddocks for each treatment, were established and rotationally grazed (seven-days per paddock) by Angus crossbred beef steers for 112 days in 2012 and 2013. Pastures were irrigated every two weeks applying an average of 10 cm (4”) per set. A total of 168 kg of N fertilizer (Ammonium sulfate) per hectare was applied in three split applications at 56 kg/ha to the TF+N. Forage samples were collected from each paddock prior to grazing to determine dry matter (DM) and nutrient content. Steers were weighed every 28 days to determine livestock performance. Partial budgeting techniques were used to determine net return per land unit ($ per hectare). As partial budgets were not available for the specific grass/forage combinations, new partial budgets were developed.

Objective 1, component #3: Continuous culture studies to investigate ruminal fermentation characteristics of grass-legume mixtures.

A continuous-culture experiment was performed to investigate the effects of multiple tall fescue (TF)-to-legume ratios (TF:legume = 75:25, 50:50, or 25:75 on a DM basis) of three different TF-legume mixed diets [TF-alfalfa (TF+AF), TF- birdsfoot trefoil (TF+BT), or TF-cicer milkvetch (TF+CM)] on fermentation characteristics.

Objective 2. Determine best possible grass-legume mixtures and plant densities that maximize pasture productivity and nutritional quality.

Tall fescue (TF), orchardgrass (OG), meadow brome (MB), timothy (TM), and perennial ryegrass (PRG) were grown in monocultures and mixtures with alfalfa (ALF), birdsfoot trefoil (BFT), and cicer milkvetch (CMV). The binary grass-legume mixes were planted using ratios of 25:75, 50:50, 75:25. Each grass was grown in three monocultures; one with no fertilization, and one each fertilized with N at 67 kg/ha and 134 kg/ha. Nitrogen fertilizer treatments were split into three applications: mid-April prior at the onset of active growth and following the second and third harvests each season. Forage yield of the mixtures was compared with fertilized and unfertilized grass monocultures. Plots were harvested four times annually in 2011, 2012, and 2013 to simulate a 28 day rotational grazing period. Irrigation was applied two weeks prior to the first harvest and every three weeks thereafter to meet ET requirements of the alfalfa.

Objective 3. Determine the effects of tannins on nutrient cycling in grazing systems.

This research was conducted simultaneously with Objective 1, component #2, and included the four pasture treatments of tall fescue+birdsfoot trefoil (TF+BFT), tall fescue+alfalfa (TF+ALF), tall fescue with (TF+N), and without fertilizer (TF-N). Grazing, fertilization, and irrigation are as listed in objective 1. Plant samples were collected before and after each grazing event. Herbage dry matter and total N were determined. Soil samples were collected in the spring prior to grazing and in the fall after the grazing season. Soil samples were collected using a Giddings® soil extraction instrument to a depth of 1.524 meters. Four soil cores were taken in each plot and divided into three subsamples; 0-30.48 cm, 30.48-60.96 cm, 60.96-152.40 cm. Within each plot, the subsamples were combined for each depth to make a composite soil subsample. Composite soil subsamples were analyzed for nitrate-nitrite nitrogen using potassium chloride (Mulvaney, 1996) on the Lachat Auto-analyzer, QuickChem Method 10-107-04-1-C (Sechtig, 1992), and for total N by combustion analysis using a LECO TruSpec CN elemental analyzer. Leachate samples were collected using suction-cup lysimeters. Leachate was collected every two weeks during the growing season. Samples were analyzed for nitrate-nitrite using QuickChem Method 10-107-04-1-C (Sechtig, 1992) on the Lachat auto-analyzer. A mass balance approach comparing total nitrogen outputs against total nitrogen inputs for each treatment estimated losses due to volatilization.

Research results and discussion:

Objective 1. Compare livestock performance, economics, and subsequent carcass characteristics from beef grazing grass monocultures and low- and high-tannin grass-legume mixtures versus traditional feedlot-based finishing.

Objective 1, component #1: Affect of nitrogen fertilization on growth performance, fermentation profiles, fatty acid composition, and carcass characteristics.

Overall average daily gain (ADG) and dry matter intake (DMI) were greater in steers that grazed TF+N pastures compared to TF-N. Ruminal ammonia-N (NH3-N) concentration increased with N fertilization. Backfat thickness, ribeye area, and intramuscular fat concentration did not differ between fertilization treatments. Overall results of this study indicate that N fertilization on TF affected ruminal fermentation, which positively influenced growth performances, but did not affect carcass characteristics of grazing beef steers. Results published in peer-reviewed manuscript (Noviandi et al. 2012b, Professional Animal Scientist. 28:519-527).

Total fat percentage in the subcutaneous adipose tissue of steers did not differ between pastures with or without N fertilizer, and similar total fat concentrations were also measured between TF pasture and the feedlot-finished steers on week 12 and 16. Grazing on TF pasture increased the proportions of important fatty acids of cis-9, trans-11 CLA, C18:3 n-3, and SFA in adipose tissue. However, C18:1 cis-9 and C18:2 n-6 proportions of pasture-finishing steers decreased compared with feedlot-finished steers throughout the study. Furthermore, TF pasture-finished steers had less backfat, rib fat, and rib-eye area compared with feedlot-finished steers. Results published in peer-reviewed manuscript (Noviandi et al. 2012a, Professional Animal Scientist. 28:184-193).

Overall, these studies indicated that N fertilization improved DMI, ADG, and increased ruminal fermentation of grazing steers. The increased ruminal ammonia concentration suggested a need to supplement TF pastures with readily fermentable carbohydrates. Pasturing beef steers on N fertilized TF increased cis-9, trans-11 CLA and lowered n-6:n-3 ratio in beef adipose tissue throughout grazing compared with feedlot finished beef. However, although grazing on TF elicited positive fatty acid composition in adipose tissue, there was an negative effect on carcass quality and grade with TF-pasture-finished steers having less backfat, rib fat, and rib-eye area compared to feedlot finished steers.

Objective 1, component #2: Affect of tall fescue-legume mixtures on forage production, steer gains, and economic returns.

Yearly forage yield was highest in TF+N (5164 kg ha-1), followed by TF+BFT (4721 kg ha-1) and TF+ALF (4463 kg ha-1), whereas, the TF–N treatment had the lowest yield (2920 kg ha-1) (Figure 1). Average total digestible nutrients (TDN) were greater for TF+BFT and TF+ALF (both 593 g kg-1) than for TF+N (558 g kg-1) or TF–N (550 g kg-1). Steer average daily gains (ADG) differed among all treatments with TF+BFT (0.73 kg d-1) being the highest, followed by TF+ALF (0.67 kg d-1), TF+N (0.61 kg d-1), and lastly TF–N (0.40 kg d-1) (Figure 2). The TF+BFT treatment doubled the economic net return ($1,133 ha-1) when compared to TF+N ($572 ha-1) (Table 1). Tall fescue-legume mixtures, most notably TF+BFT, improved animal performance and economic returns as compared to traditional nitrogen fertilization. Results prepared for publication in peer reviewed manuscript (Bingham et al., In Review).

Objective 1, component #3: Continuous culture studies to investigate ruminal fermentation characteristics of grass-legume mixtures.

Grass-legume ratios did not affect the concentrations of total VFA, acetate, and butyrate, whereas increasing legume proportion increased propionate concentration. Regardless of TF-legume ratio, feeding TF+CM resulted in the greatest propionate concentration, whereas TF+AF and TF+BT maintained a similar concentration of propionate. The TF+AF combination resulted in a greater acetate-to-propionate ratio than TF+BT or TF+CM. Decrease in ammonia-N concentration was noticed when legume proportion decreased. Ammonia- N concentration of TF+CM decreased compared with TF+AF, and it further decreased in cultures receiving TF+BT. Methane production was decreased by increasing legume proportions, and the result was particularly notable in TF+BT due to increased condensed tannin concentration. In addition, TF+BT increased the proportion of C18:1 trans-11 and decreased C18:0 in the culture, but no effects were detected between different legume ratios. Results of this experiment indicated that increasing the proportion of legume in combination with TF favorably shifts fermentation by producing more propionate and less ammonia-N and methane. Results published in peer-reviewed manuscript (Noviandi et al. 2014. Professional Animal Scientist. 30:23-32).

Objective 2. Determine best possible grass-legume mixtures and plant densities that maximize pasture productivity and nutritional quality.

Seasonal forage production of unfertilized TF, OG, MB, TM and PRG monocultures was 8.85, 6.79, 8.03, 5.79, and 5.77 Mg ha-1, respectively. Grass monocultures fertilized at 67 and 134 kg/ha averaged 20 and 41% higher yields than the unfertilized. Grasses were the most productive early in the season, while the legume forage yield was more uniform during the growing season. Generally the most productive grass-legume ratio was 50:50, except for PRG which was most productive at a 25:75 PRG-legume ratio. Average grass:ALF, grass:BFTF, and grass:CMV forage yields were 76, 55 and 27% higher than their respective unfertilized grass monocultures, and grass mixtures with ALF and BFT were equal in yield to monocultures fertilized at the highest rate (Figure 3). The CMV was slow to establish but when the 2012 and 2013 data are compared the grass-CMV yields averaged 54% greater than their respective unfertilized monocultures. Grasses were the most productive in mixes with ALF followed by BFT, with all legumes providing uniform seasonal distribution of forage production by compensating for the cool season grasses during mid-summer. Overall the TF and MB mixtures were the most productive and not different from each other by year three; whereas, productivity of the PRG and TM monocultures dropped to less than one third of their first season with the production after the first year largely attributed to the legume component. In summary this study indicated that, (1) yield of grass-legume mixtures is equal to N fertilized grass monocultures; (2) a 50:50 grass-legume ratio tended to be the most productive; (3) legumes most to least productive in grass mixes were alfalfa>BFT>CMV; and (4) grasses most to least productive in legume mixes were TF=MB>OG>TM>PRG. Results were part of M.S. thesis and are being prepared for publication.

Objective 3. Determine the effects of tannins on nutrient cycling in grazing systems.

Preliminary results indicate that TF+N treatment resulted in higher available soil N and higher nitrate concentrations in the leachate as compared to TF-legume mixtures, with the following relationship: TF+N > TF+BFT = TF+ALF > TF-N. Sample and statistical analyses ongoing.

Research conclusions:

Results indicated that steers have better gains when grazing tall fescue grown in a mixture with legumes versus in fertilized and unfertilized grass monocultures, with the mixture using birdsfoot trefoil resulting in the highest gains. Yearly forage yields were slightly lower than fertilized tall fescue, but results of small-plot studies indicated that certain grass-legume mixtures were as productive as fertilized grass monocultures, and that specific ratios between grasses and legumes can even increase forage production. Digestion studies have elucidated the effect of legumes on ruminal fermentation and gas production, with results showing that grass-birdsfoot trefoil mixtures favorably produce less ammonia-N and methane. Ongoing analyses of leachate samples suggests grass-legume mixtures have lower nitrate concentrations in leachate, compared to N fertilizer; and, thus, are beneficial to reduce groundwater contamination. The tall fescue-legume mixtures doubled the economic return when compared to fertilized tall fescue monocultures. Overall, this information is adding to the knowledge-base about grazing grass-legume mixtures. The results have indicated that the use of synthetic fertilizer can be reduced without negatively affecting forage and livestock production. The demonstrated favorable economic and environmental results should lead to increased producer adoption and increased agricultural sustainability.

Multiple on-farm tours, research station field days, and forage schools demonstrated these findings to approximately 600 participants. Many of the participants were producers and ranchers, including those from small, family-owned operations. Follow up questions have indicated that many of these participants are implementing grass-legume mixtures in their operations in an effort to increase economic and environmental sustainability. The most significant of these field tours was the joint USU/Western SARE project grass-legume symposia tour which was held in the summer of 2013 and was highlighted in the Western SARE quarterly newsletter. In addition, the results from this research have been presented at 11 regional, national, and international professional meetings, garnering attention from all over the world. The results have been published in five peer-reviewed articles or proceedings, and additional manuscripts are in review or being prepared.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

List of Western SARE PROJECT SW10-088: TOURS, PRESENTATIONS, AND MANUSCRIPTS (“**” denotes those new since last annual report).

FIELD TOURS (SORTED OLDEST TO MOST RECENT):

Ward, R. and B.L. Waldron. 2010. Franklin County Idaho Crop and Weed Tour. Tall fescue-legume mixtures to improve pasture sustainability. Western SARE grass-legume grazing plots on-farm field tour. Preston, ID. July 20, 2010. (Impact: 40-50 producers in attendance).

Waldron, B.L. 2010. Utah State University Pasture Research Workshop. Breeding and performances of pasture grasses and legumes. Utah State University Intermountain Irrigated Pasture Research Facility. Lewiston, UT. July 22, 2010. (Impact: 80-100 producers and extension personnel in attendance).

Heaton, K. Utah Cattleman’s Summer Tour. Western SARE grass-legume grazing plots on-farm field tour. Panguitch, UT. August 03, 2012. (Impact: 30-50 ranchers in attendance).

Heaton, K. Pasture walk for local conservation district and watershed committee. Western SARE grass-legume grazing plots on-farm field tour. Panguitch, UT. Sept 06, 2012. (Impact: 20-40 participants).

Bingham, T.J., B.L. Waldron, E. Creech, D.R. ZoBell, and R. Miller. Utah State University Pasture Field Day. Plant and animal performance in grass/legume pastures. Lewiston, UT. July 31, 2013. (Impact: 150 attendees of which many represented small, family-owned, farm and ranches. Also was part of the Western SARE AC Summer meeting Cache Valley tour).

Noviandi, C. T., J.-S. Eun, D. R. ZoBell, and B. L. Waldron. Utah State University Pasture Field Day. Fatty acid profiles in adipose tissue of grazing beef steers. Lewiston, UT. July 31, 2013. (Impact: 150 attendees of which many represented small, family-owned, farm and ranches. Also was part of the Western AC Summer meeting Cache Valley tour).

Peel, M.D., S.R. Cox, J.E. Creech, and B.L. Waldron. Utah State University Pasture Field Day. Production and nutritional benefits of including legumes in pastures. Lewiston, UT. July 31, 2013. (Impact: 150 attendees of which many represented small, family-owned, farm and ranches. Also was part of the Western SARE AC Summer meeting Cache Valley tour).

Miller, R. Utah State University Pasture Field Day. Nitrogen leachate from grazing grass/legume pastures. Lewiston, UT. July 31, 2013. (Impact: 150 attendees of which many represented small, family-owned, farm and ranches. Also was part of the Western SARE AC Summer meeting Cache Valley tour).

**Bingham, T.J., B.L. Waldron, E. Creech, D.R. ZoBell. 2014 Utah Beef Cattle Field Day. Invited Presentation, ‘Grass-Legume pasture study.” BYU Conference Center, Provo, UT. February 11, 2014. (Impact: 175 participants, primarily ranchers and producers. Presentation given by graduate student T.J. Bingham).

**Waldron, B.L. 2015 Southeast Idaho Forage School. Presentation entitled, “Pasture Mixes that Produce Growth and Milk.” Preston, Idaho. March 3, 2015. (Impact: 40 participants, primarily farmers and ranchers. The presentation was well received and elicited many questions. Of particular interest were management information on birdsfoot trefoil/grass mixtures, and the data on economic net return of grass-legume mixtures. By show of hand, half indicated increased interest and/or knowledge in managing livestock production and grazing grasses and legumes).

PROFESSIONAL MEETINGS AND PRESENTATIONS (SORTED OLDEST TO MOST RECENT):

Noviandi, C. T., J.-S. Eun, D. R. ZoBell, R. D. Stott, B. L. Waldron, and M. D. Peel. 2011. Growth performance and carcass characteristics of beef steers grazing tall fescue without or with nitrogen fertilization. Pages 337–340 in Proceedings, Western Section, American Society of Animal Science, Montana State Univ., Miles City, MT, June 2011.

Noviandi, C. T., R. E. Ward, J.-S. Eun, D. R. ZoBell, R. D. Stott, T. Astuti, B. L. Waldron, and M. D. Peel. 2011. Fatty acid profiles in adipose tissue of grazing and feedlot beef steers. J. Anim. Sci. 89 (E-Suppl. 1):617. (Abstr.). Joint Annual Meeting of ADSA-ASAS, July 2011.

Noviandi, C. T., M. N. McDonald, D. R. ZoBell, J.-S. Eun, M. D. Peel, and B. L. Waldron. 2012. Effects of energy supplementation for pasture forages on in vitro ruminal fermentation in continuous cultures. J. Dairy Sci. 95 (Suppl. 2):45 (Abstr.).

Cox, S.R., M. Peel, B. Waldron, and E. Creech. Maximizing forage production with grass-legume mixtures of tall fescue, orchardgrass, meadow brome, alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, and cicer milkvetch in three ratios. 2012. Joint annual meeting of the Western Society of Crop Science and Western Wheat Workers. July 11-13, 2012. Pullman, WA.

Cox, S.R., M.D. Peel, B. Waldron, and E. Creech. 2012. Forage production of grass-legume mixes in three ratios with tall fescue orchardgrass, meadow brome, alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, and cicer milkvetch. ASA, CSSA, and SSSA, International Annual Meetings. Oct. 21-24, 2012. Cincinnati, OH.

Bingham, T.J., B.L. Waldron, E. Creech, D.R. ZoBell, and R. Miller. 2013. Plant and animal performance in grass/legume pastures. Western Soc. of Crop Science Annual meetings. June 11-12, 2013. Pendleton, OR.

Noviandi, C. T., R. E. Ward, J.-S. Eun, D. R. ZoBell, R. D. Stott, B. L. Waldron, and M. D. Peel. 2013. Fatty acid metabolism on pasture- and feedlot-finished cattle. Pages 585–586 in Proceedings, 22nd International Grasslands Congress. Sept 15-19, 2013. Sydney, Australia.

Bingham, T.J., B.L. Waldron, E. Creech, D.R. ZoBell, and R. Miller. 2013. Plant and animal performance in grass/legume pastures. Abstr. 113-9. ASA, CSSA, and SSSA, International Annual Meetings. Nov. 3-6, 2013.Tampa Bay, FL.

**Peel, M.D., S.R. Cox, E. Creech, and B.L. Waldron. 2014. Forage Production of Five Cool Season Grasses in Binary Mixtures with Three Legumes at Three Planting Ratios. Joint conference of NAAIC, Trifolium, & Grass Breeders. July 8-10. Lethbridge, AB Canada.

**Peel, M.D., S.R. Cox, E. Creech, and B.L. Waldron. 2014. Forage Production of Five Cool Season Grasses in Binary Mixtures with Three Legumes at Three Planting Ratios. Agronomy abstracts ASA, CSSA, SSSA. Madison Wisconsin. Nov. 2-5, Long Beach, Ca.

**Waldron, B.L. and M.D. Peel. 2014. Predicted efficiency of indirect selection to improve yield in tall fescue-alfalfa mixtures. Agronomy abstracts ASA, CSSA, SSSA. Madison Wisconsin. Nov. 2-5, Long Beach, Ca.

DISSERTATION AND THESIS DEFENSE:

Noviandi, Cuk Tri. Ph.D. Dissertation defense and seminar. Growth Performance and Nutrient Metobolism of Pasture-Finished Beef Steers and In-Vitro Fermentation Characteristics of Pasture Forages in Continuous Cultures. Dept of Animal, Dairy, Veterinary Sciences, Utah State University. July 16, 2013.

Cox, Steven. M.S. Thesis defense and seminar. Forage Yield and Quality of Binary Grass-legume mixtures of tall fescue, orchardgrass, meadow brome, alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil and cicer milkvetch. Dept. Plant Sciences, Utah State University. August 9, 2013.

**Bingham, TJ. M.S. Thesis defense and seminar. Plant and animal performance in tall fescue and tall fescue/legume pastures. Dept. Plant Sciences, Utah State University. 2014.

PAPERS IN PEER REFERRED PROCEEDINGS:

Noviandi, C. T., R. E. Ward, J.-S. Eun, D. R. ZoBell, R. D. Stott, B. L. Waldron, and M. D. Peel. 2013. Fatty acid metabolism on pasture- and feedlot-finished cattle. Pages 585–586 in Proceedings, 22nd International Grasslands Congress, Sydney, Australia, New South Wales Department of Primary Industry, Kite St., Orange New South Wales, Australia.

EXTENSION BULLETINS:

None to report.

PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL ARTICLES (SORTED OLDEST TO MOST RECENT):

Noviandi, C. T., R. E. Ward, D. R. ZoBell, R. D. Stott, B. L. Waldron, M. D. Peel, and J.-S. Eun. 2012a. Fatty acid composition in adipose tissue of pasture- and feedlot-finished beef steers. Prof. Anim. Sci. 28:184–193.

Noviandi, C. T., B. L. Waldron, J.-S. Eun, D. R. ZoBell, and M. D. Peel. 2012b. Growth performance, ruminal fermentation profiles, and carcass characteristics of beef steers grazing tall fescue without or with nitrogen fertilization. Prof. Anim. Sci. 28:519–527.

Noviandi, C. T., J.-S. Eun, M. D. Peel, B. L. Waldron, B. R. Min, D. R. ZoBell, and R.L. Miller. 2014. Effects of energy supplementation in pasture forages on in vitro ruminal fermentation characteristics in continuous cultures. Professional Animal Scientist. 30:13-22.

Noviandi, C. T., K. Neal, J.-S. Eun, M. D. Peel, B. L. Waldron, D. R. ZoBell, and B. R. Min. 2014. Comparison of alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, and cicer milkvetch in combination with 25, 50, 75% tall fescue in a continuous-culture system. Professional Animal Scientist. 30:23-32.

**Bingham, T.J., B.L. Waldron, J.E. Creech, M.D. Peel, R. Miller, D.L. Snyder, D.R. ZoBell, J-S. Eun, K.B. Jensen, S. Parkinson, and K. Heaton. 201x (In Review). Tall fescue mixtures with birdsfoot trefoil or alfalfa improve forage production, beef steer gain, and economic returns. Crop Science. (Submitted for Review).

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Economic analyses demonstrated the benefits of tall fescue-legume mixtures compared to fertilized and unfertilized grass monocultures (See Table 1 above). Averaged over two grazing years, and using the average 5-year calf price, net returns ranged from $118.07 ha-1 for TF–N to $1133.08 ha-1 for TF+BFT. The highest net returns were associated with the TF+ALF and the TF+BFT pastures, which were comparable at $1,014.83?ha-1 and $1,133.11?ha-1, respectively. These high economic returns for TF+BFT and TF+ALF are competitive with many other crops grown in the region, demonstrating there is an alternative to public land grazing where high-quality irrigated pastures are available. Furthermore, net return for TF+N was only 53% of TF+ALF and TF+BFT as a result of TF+N’s higher yearly input costs (N fertilizer) and slightly less ADG. Comparisons between the TF+legume pastures and TF–N were more dramatic, with TF–N net return on average only 11% of that from TF+BFT and TF+ALF. These economic data suggest that added value per hectare is driven by stocking rate, which is largely a function of forage productivity. In this study, actual stocking rate was double (7.5 steers ha-1) for TF+N, TF+ALF, and TF+BFT as compared to TF–N. The results indicate that both forage yield and nutritional value should be carefully considered when choosing pasture species and cultivars. Overall, grazing tall fescue mixed with BFT or ALF is more economically viable than fertilized tall fescue (due to TF+N’s increased production costs and less ADG), and much more viable than unfertilized tall fescue (due to TF–N’s less forage production and lower ADG).

Farmer Adoption

Multiple on-farm tours, research station field days, and forage schools demonstrated these findings to approximately 600 participants. Many of the participants were producers and ranchers, including those from small, family-owned operations. Follow up questions indicated that many of these participants were implementing grass-legume mixtures in their operations in an effort to increase economic and environmental sustainability.

In addition, two producer-participants involved in this study had on-farm trials that included all the pasture treatments. They collected samples and we weighed and summarized them. Their data was in-line with the data collected at experiment station farm, which helped increase their “buy-in” and resulted in expansion of the grass-legume component of their grazing operations.

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

This research showed that a pasture mixture of tall fescue and the condensed-tannin-containing legume, birdsfoot trefoil, improved nitrogen utilization and steer weights, as compared to using commercial fertilizer on tall fescue. It also demonstrated, via in-vitro studies, that supplementing nutritive energy into grass-legume mixtures improved ruminal nitrogen utilization, resulting in less ammonia and methane production. However, critical questions remain, including: (1) which grass-legume mixtures and ratios can provide both high tannin and energy levels, (2) what will be the synergistic effect of tannins and energy on nutrient cycling, and (3) how will these highly nutritious grass-legume mixtures affect cow fertility and conception rates? Additionally, many participants at field days stated that adoption of grass-legume mixed pastures will be dependent upon determining protocols to successfully establish legumes into existing grass stands.

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.