Planned Grazing Systems for Sustainable Livestock Production

1991 Annual Report for LNC91-038

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1991: $142,576.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1993
Matching Federal Funds: $61,000.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $108,454.00
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
James R. Gerrish
University of Missouri-Columbia

Planned Grazing Systems for Sustainable Livestock Production


A planned grazing system is a pasture management system in which there are a minimum of
three pastures with clearly defined grazing and non-grazing periods based on the physiological
needs of the pasture plants and the nutritional requirements of the grazing livestock. This type of
system can potentially be more economically profitable than conventional methods of beef
production, while at the same time have less negative impacts on the environment.

1) Evaluate planned grazing systems differing in level of capital and management input in terms
of soil and plant community stability, livestock performance, and farm profitability.
2) Develop demonstration sites for planned grazing systems on both publicly and privately
owned land.
3) Provide intensive training workshops on planned grazing systems for public agency personnel
who provide an existing educational network to disseminate technical information to producers
throughout the region.
4) Provide intensive training workshops on planned grazing systems to producers.

Results from three years of data collection clearly show the impact of water and shade as focal
points for nutrient accumulation due to animal congregation at these points. Soil phosphorus
levels were frequently 3 to 6 times higher near a shade site compared to the general pasture area.
Soil potassium tends to be more affected by water source than by shade. Potassium levels within
50' to 100' of the water source may be more than 10 times greater than the general pasture level.
The tendency for more uniform distribution of manure in grazing systems with higher stock
density and reduced distance traveled to water is apparent.

Legume persistence and productivity were satisfactory in 1991, the first year of the project.
From July 1992 to late 1993, excessive rainfall was received, resulting in a severe stand loss of
nearly all legumes in pasture, with the exception of white clover. Alfalfa stand loss during 1993
was in excess of 90 percent. Red clover and birdsfoot trefoil were also reduced, though not as
severely as alfalfa.

Two winters of stockpile grazing were quite different, with 1992-93 being extremely wet and
1993-94 having fairly good grazing conditions. In the wet winter, strip grazing stockpile with a
3-day strip yielded 90+ grazing days per acre, compared to only 50+ grazing days when the cows
were offered a 14-day feed strip. In the fall of 1993, 220 new weaned calves grazing stockpiled
tall fescue gained 1.5+ lb/hd/day with no sickness through the 21 day weaning period. Quality of
the residual forage was more than adequate for the maintenance of dry, pregnant beef cows.
Daily feed cost for wintering per beef cow was reduced 60 percent by grazing stockpiled tall
fescue/red clover pasture compared to feeding tall fescue/red clover hay. On the basis of a 100
cow herd, the increase in net return was $4,000 to $5,000.

Economic Analysis:
Production costs in a beef cow-calf enterprise can be significantly reduced by grazing
management strategies which extend the grazing season and reduce the need for harvested
feedstuffs. The winter feeding costs from this project were significantly lower than the average
costs for feed and pasture reported by producers participating in the University of Missouri -
Management Information Record System. The partial budget for pasture costs indicated that
fertilizer costs can also be significantly reduced by use of legume based pastures compared to
nitrogen-fertilized grass pastures. Stand life of the particular legume used in a pasture has an
impact on this comparison, however. The seeding costs associated with annual or short-lived
legumes may offset the savings realized by reducing N input. Investment of capital in fence and
water systems to manage grazing to allow legume persistence must also be charged against the
legume based system.

Potential Contributions and Practical Applications:
By demonstrating to producers more profitable and environmentally friendly methods of beef
production, this project could dramatically affect the net farm income of the state and region
while protecting soil and water resources.