Using Grazing Wedges to Match Beef Cattle Nutrient Need with Pasture Resources while Reducing Feed and Fertility Costs

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2009: $148,137.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Dr. William Sexten
University of Missouri - Columbia

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: grazing management, pasture fertility, grazing - rotational, stockpiled forages, stocking rate, winter forage, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: nutrient cycling, application rate management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Soil Management: soil analysis

    Proposal abstract:

    This project will teach pasture budgeting techniques designed to match beef cattle nutrient requirements to the forage system while strategically managing input costs, pasture quality and carrying capacity. Four core beef producer groups in northwest, west-central, south-central and central Missouri will be developed in cooperation with state and regional Extension specialists. Within each core group, a producer-owned demonstration farm will measure forage growth and utilization and document feed and fertilizer input changes due to management changes related to synchronizing animal demand to on-farm forage supplies.

    Project outputs include a grazing wedge guide sheet, management protocols, pasture walks, and workshops focused on basic animal and forage knowledge in addition to real-time discussion of seasonal challenges. Weekly regional forage production estimates will be posted to a beef pasture management web site with cattle and forage management protocols to facilitate broader educational audiences. Short-term outcomes include increased social interaction and idea sharing between beef producers while increasing forage and beef animal nutrition knowledge. Intermediate outcomes will be improved pasture utilization and efficiency by managing forage inventory in conjunction with animal need and reduce fertility costs by improving nutrient cycling and forage use efficiency. Forage, feed and fertility utilization pre and post participation will be determined to evaluate effectiveness.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Short-term outcomes from demonstrating forage budgeting techniques using a grazing wedge in conjunction with specified forage and cattle management protocols on producer farms include increased social interaction and idea sharing between core beef producers while increasing forage and beef animal nutrition knowledge. Increasing basic forage and nutrition knowledge for beef producers provides the foundation to build a sustainable grazing system. Basic knowledge allows producers to make educated changes in cattle and forage management practices regardless of seasonal or environmental changes.

    One intermediate-term outcome is greater producer focus on strategic use of fertilizer and feed inputs to match forage supply and animal needs. Another intermediate outcome is the shift in producer focus from increasing forage production to improving pasture use efficiency. Using on-farm forage growth information summarized using a grazing wedge in conjunction with basic cattle and forage management knowledge will demonstrate the importance of matching forage, fertilizer and feed inputs to cattle nutrient demand. These on-farm demonstrations will provide relevant examples for producers to use for developing systems that fit their individual farms.

    Long-term outcomes are improved beef operation profitability, increased forage utilization and animal performance while reducing, or strategically altering, fertilizer and feed inputs. Improved profitability with the context of greater nutrient use efficiency and strategic use of feed and fertilizer provides a sustainable economic and environmental model. Beef enterprises failing to operate in both an environmentally and economically sustainable manner ultimately fail. This project develops a plan for moving beef producers toward financial and environmental improvement by developing grazing management plans designed to match forage production and animal demands while optimizing the use of feed and fertilizer inputs.

    The program is targeted at beef producers of all sizes. Spring calving, fall calving and stocker operators are included in this audience as all segments of the beef industry grazing forage stand to benefit from improved forage and livestock management. These management systems will apply to all beef producers managing cattle on cool-season pastures (Midwest).

    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.