- Agronomic: corn, rye, soybeans, wheat
- Animals: bovine
- Animal Production: feed additives, stockpiled forages
- Crop Production: cover crops, no-till
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance, whole farm planning
- Production Systems: agroecosystems, integrated crop and livestock systems
- Soil Management: soil chemistry, soil microbiology, organic matter, soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems
With a projected global population over 10 billion by 2050, the United States must increase agricultural production while conserving diminishing land and water resources to meet future food demand. The SARE North Central region of the U.S. produces 85.5% of the country’s corn grain and approximately 30% of the finished beef cattle; therefore, this region could benefit from the opportunity to integrate crop and livestock production by grazing cattle on corn residue and cover crops. Although rye is a common cover crop in Nebraska, there is no data regarding its establishment, yield, and economic feasibility as a forage for backgrounding calves in early spring. Ionophores can improve feed efficiency through increased gain and decreased intake, as well as reduce methane emissions in cattle fed high-forage diets. No current information exists on ionophore supplementation of cattle grazing cereal rye in spring. We hypothesize that supplementing growing calves with ionophores will improve average daily gain at equal stocking rates, leading to conserved cover crop biomass, improved soil cover, and greater profitability for producers. The goal of this study is to identify the utility of grazing rye in an integrated system, and whether management strategies such as ionophore supplementation and corn residue removal are potential management strategies to enhance the productivity and economic returns of rye grazing system. Project success will be evaluated through producer feedback, economic analysis, and field day attendance and participant feedback. The long-term objective is to develop recommendations for North Central agricultural producers on possible strategies to feasibly implement a sustainable integrated crop-livestock system using cattle and cereal rye in a traditional corn-soybean rotation. These strategies can enhance the diversification and economic resiliency of North Central agriculture in order to meet the future challenges of global food demand.
Our specific aims are to 1) assess ionophore supplementation effects on growing calf performance when backgrounded on cereal rye in spring; 1a) determine the effect of ionophore supplementation on cattle intake by measuring rye biomass disappearance over the grazing period; 1b) evaluate the economic implications of ionophore supplementation on a single enterprise (cattle) and whole system level (crop-livestock integration); and 2) assess the impact of two different types of fall corn residue management (removal by baling or grazing) on rye forage production, ground cover and animal performance; and 3) the effect of rye growth and grazing on subsequent cash crop yields to conduct a whole system profitability analysis.