Rye With or Without Purple Top Turnips for Stocker Calf Grazing Over the Winter Following Corn Harvest as Part of a Southeastern U.S. Integrated Crop-Livestock System

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2019: $11,757.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2021
Grant Recipient: North Carolina State University
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Carrie Pickworth
NC State University

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn, rye
  • Vegetables: turnips
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems

    Proposal abstract:

    There are many Southeast farmers that manage crop land for corn production either as dryland or with the use of swine and poultry waste as fertilizer. For added sustainability, these farmers could add grazing crops and beef stocker calves to their system, while their crop land is not producing corn. Currently few producers capitalize on these combined resources, although this crop-livestock diversification could potentially increase sustainability and net returns. The incorporation of large taproot brassicas, such as turnips, may mitigate potential soil compaction due to grazing pressure, while enhancing calf daily gains compared to a traditional grass cover crop.

    Therefore, the proposed study will evaluate the forage yield and nutritive value, calf growth, soil characteristics, subsequent corn grain yield, and economic effects of winter grazing stocker calves on either: 1. a monoculture rye or, 2. 60 percent and 40 percent turnip mixture. The study will be conducted at three locations across eastern North Carolina for a second year of a two-year study. At each location approximately 21.85 hectares of land, planted to rye or rye-turnip mixture will be grazed by 24 spring-born commercial steer calves each year. Cover crop yield, nutritional value, and cattle body weights will be recorded throughout the grazing season. Soil and corn grain samples will also be collected from both grazed and excluded areas within each treatment to analyze soil characteristics and subsequent grain yields. Conclusions from this study will demonstrate which winter cover crop was the most practical, sustainable, and economical to implement.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Analyze double-crop forage yield and nutritive value, specifically: dry matter, organic matter, crude protein, neutral detergent fiber, acid detergent fiber, ethanol soluble carbohydrates, in vitro organic matter disappearance, sulfur, and nitrate.
    • Determine the effect of the two double-crop forage schemes on calf growth parameters: hip height, body weight, and average daily gain.
    • Characterize the effect of the two double-crop forge schemes on soil parameters: soil compaction, soil fertility properties, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, organic carbon and nitrogen, particulate organic matter, and soil microbial biomass in grazed fields and no-grazing exclusions.
    • Measure the impact of grazing stocker calves from two double-crop forage schemes on subsequent corn grain yield.
    • Quantify the economic inputs and returns of grazing stocker cattle on double-crop forage schemes: input costs, $/kg of gain on stocker calves, $/ha of subsequent corn grain, and total net return.
    • Develop and disseminate recommendations for farmers which integrate a multi-species crop-livestock system with stock calves grazing a double-crop annual forage planted after corn grain harvest.
    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.