- Animals: bovine
- Animal Production: feed/forage, feed management, grazing - rotational
Grazing of annual brassicas to extend grazing season in summer-dry pastures in Northern California.
Lack of summer rainfall leads to a paucity of annual grass forage in the summer months in the Brentwood region. Cattle are generally fed alfalfa hay during this time. However, the cultivation of alfalfa has proven to be ecological costly in both water and carbon footprint. By utilizing brassica forage crops as cattle forage in May and June, we hope to reduce costs, environmental impact per head, and improve pasture fertility. Planted brassicas will allow a greater percent of cattle feed to be produced on site and in turn keep more of the fertility and nutrients cycling within the farm system.
In a 20 acre trial, we will test three different brassica species over three different winter seeding dates. No tillage will be performed to avoid erosion and soil disturbance. Cattle will be strip grazed across the plots using electric fencing. Data to be collected includes: dry matter yields, plant phenology information, forage nutritional quality, cost of production, and live weight gain of cattle. We will compare the cost of production to hay fed cattle. Dissemination of findings will be achieved through social media, on farm field days, written publications, and presentations.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Quantify the efficacy of grazing cattle on brassicas in summer-dry pastures of Northern California as compared to hay feeding based on cost.
- Quantify the forage production, nutritive value and animal liveweight gains from brassica pastures and alfalfa supplemental feeding systems.
- Actively share results with local extension agents, ranchers, farmers, industry organizations, and private consultants during the trial and after the data has been collected and analyzed.