Use of Livestock, Forage, and Labor Resources in Beef Production Systems to Reduce Production Costs, Increase Profitability, and Reduce Use of Fossil Fuels

2004 Annual Report for LNC02-206

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $92,789.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Richard Clark
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Don Adams
University of Nebraska, West Central Research and Extension Center

Use of Livestock, Forage, and Labor Resources in Beef Production Systems to Reduce Production Costs, Increase Profitability, and Reduce Use of Fossil Fuels


1) June-calving cows grazed about 360 days in each of three years; exposure of the cows to sterile bulls before breeding increased pregnancy rate when cows grazed subirrigated meadow during the breeding season, but had no effect when cows grazed upland range during the breeding season. 2) Grazing was extended from 275 to 300 days in a March-calving system by grazing subirrigated meadow during May rather than feeding hay. Feeding supplemental protein to March-calving cows grazing range December through February had no effects cow pregnancy rate but appeared to increase carcass weight of steers at slaughter.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1) Improve profitability for 25% of the Sandhills ranches (those with meadows) by extending grazing, reducing purchased inputs and labor and increasing net returns.
2) Improve reproductive efficiency in extended grazing systems on range or on meadows with biostimulation (e.g., exposure of cows to sterile bulls prior to breeding). Improving reproductive efficiency at a low cost would result in more calves weaned and increased net returns. The project will provide a visible demonstration of the proposed practices that extend grazing and increase net returns to beef producers.

1) community sustainability as these producers become more economically viable, and
2) environment due to reduced use of fossil fuels and by use of grazing practices that maintain or improve health and vigor of natural forages on meadows and rangelands.

Two experiments, one with March- and one with June-calving cows, will be used to test the concepts. Utilizing projects in two calving seasons will allow for application across a broad spectrum of producers and will provide a greater opportunity for demonstration and teaching the concepts of extending grazing.


In 2002, 2003, and 2004, one hundred twenty March-calving cows were divided into eight native upland pastures from December through February. One-half the cows were fed the equivalent of 1 lb/head/day of supplemental protein (32% CP) three times per week and one-half of the cows grazed upland range with no supplemental protein. Between calving and start of breeding, one-half of the cows were fed grass hay (traditional management) and one-half grazed sub-irrigated meadow in lieu of feeding hay. At the start of breeding in June, cows fed hay and cows that grazed sub-irrigated meadow were commingled and grazed upland range through November. Calves were weaned the first week of October. Steers were shipped to a feedlot and finished for slaughter. Neither supplemental protein during winter grazing or grazing sub-irrigated meadow after calving affected cow pregnancy rate or calf weaning rate. Preliminary partial budget analysis showed incurring the additional costs of feeding supplemental protein returned $4.66 more at weaning and $22.83 more if ownership was retained through the feedlot. This is a result of increased weaning weight and a dramatic increase in carcass weight from feeding protein to the cow December through February (i.e., before the calf was born). In the case of meadow grazing, because of a 20 pound increase in calf weaning weight, returns were $19.45 greater if calves were sold at weaning and $3.33 greater in returns was achieved by retaining ownership through the feedlot.

Grazing was extended from about 255 days to 300 days annually; increasing net returns of the calf at weaning and at slaughter. Feeding supplemental protein during winter grazing significantly increased carcass weight and net returns.

We developed a June-calving system to match cow nutrient requirements with nutrients in grazed forages. The June-calving system is a year-around grazing system with about 200 pounds of hay fed annually. The June-calving system was shown to increase net returns by more than $60/cow compared to a traditional March-calving system, the difference in net returns was a result of lower feed and labor costs. Although more profitable, the June-calving system had lower pregnancy rate than the March-calving system. Therefore we were looking for a low-cost means of increasing pregnancy rate in the June-calving system.

A three-year study (2001, 2002 and 2003) determined the effects of pre-breeding nutrition, exposure to sterile bulls pre-breeding and breeding nutrition on productivity of June-calving cows. Treatments were pre-breeding (August 1 – August 30) pasture type (range vs. meadow), pre-breeding exposure to sterile bulls (with vs. without) and breeding (September 1 – October 15) pasture type (meadow vs. range). All cows were commingled at the end of the breeding season and grazed meadow regrowth through November and native range through July. Exposing cows to bulls pre-breeding improved pregnancy rates of cows that grazed meadow during the breeding season (94 vs. 89%) but did not improve pregnancy rates of cows that grazed range during the breeding season (about 90%).

MILESTONE: The net result of exposure to sterile bulls pre-breeding in combination with grazing meadow regrowth during the breeding season resulted in five more live calves for each 100 cows in the herd.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

During field days and rancher schools, 1,100 beef cattle producers visited the Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory 2002 – 2004. Cattle producers viewed the cattle in the projects and received reports on our findings.


Terry Klopfenstein

[email protected]
Professor Animal Science
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
C220 Animal Science
Lincoln, NE 68583
Office Phone: 4024726443
Jerry Volesky

[email protected]
Assitant Professor Agronomy
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
461 W. University Dr.
North Platte, NE 69101
Office Phone: 3086966710