Forage kochia has the ability to produce well in arid conditions and can meet animal requirements for protein. For these reasons, winter feed costs can be reduced by including it as a component of rangeland grazing. When combined with crested wheatgrass, which meets requirements for energy, it can significantly increase carrying capacity. Precipitation was lower than average three of the four years in which the study took place (Utah Division of Water Resources). Forage production was at or lower than average for control pastures but in pastures with kochia, exceeded average normal expected production.
Cattle on improved ranges with forage kochia had a greater increase in body condition score (BCS) than cattle on unimproved rangelands comprised mostly of crested wheatgrass. This is probably a result of the much higher crude protein (CP) contained in forage kochia as compared to the grass. Forage kochia also had equivalent digestibility, but more favorable fiber values (ADF and NDF), in comparison with the grass. Probably most noteworthy from this study is a nearly six-fold increase in forage production (which translates to increased carrying capacity) in the forage kochia pastures. Overall, results indicate that planting forage kochia to improve winter rangelands increases sustainability of livestock production in the Western United States.
The greatest limitation for acceptance of forage kochia by livestock producers is our limited knowledge of its value as a forage resource. Thus, our research objective was to evaluate livestock nutrient intake and performance responses to rangeland with or without forage kochia.
Our extension objective was to integrate this knowledge with previous knowledge about forage kochia to impact clientele knowledge, awareness, attitudes and skills. In this way, we addressed the Western SARE program goal of “addressing weak links or information gaps in whole systems and integrating the findings back into that system by outcome-impact educational outreach.”