Low-Input Beef Cattle Systems of Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1993: $70,686.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1997
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $81,750.00
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Terry Klopfenstein
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, sorghum (milo), wheat
  • Animals: bovine


  • Crop Production: ridge tillage
  • Education and Training: workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, agricultural finance


    This research project involves growing-finishing beef systems and the interaction with corn tillage system. Ridge-till corn was developed and compared to conventional tillage as a source of cornstalks for wintering beef calves. Tillage system had little effect on calf growth. There was greater trampling in the furrows than in the conventional fields and therefore fewer grazing days. The calves did not affect the ridges. Corn production during the following cropping seasons was measured on grazed and ungrazed areas. Grazing did not impact corn production on either ridge-till or conventional systems. After stalk grazing, the calves were fed alfalfa hay until grass was available. The cattle grazed eight different pasture systems until early September or early November when they entered the feedlot for finishing on high grain diets. Red clover interseeded into smooth brome increased cattle gains and eliminated the need for nitrogen fertilization during one year but stands could not be maintained. Rotating the cattle from brome to warm-season grass or to Sandhills range increased cattle gains. Allowing the cattle to graze brome regrowth, turnips, cornstalks, and rye during the fall increased the weight of the cattle entering the feedlot. Feedlot performance of the cattle was measured and economics calculated for the eight grazing systems. Systems with greatest forage gains were the most economical.

    Project objectives:

    1. Develop economical, forage based, low-input-cost beef growing finishing systems to enhance the environment.

    2. Determine the effects of cattle grazing cornstalks on ridge tillage system and ridge tillage system on cattle grazing stalks.

    3. Transmit information on low input, economical beef systems to cattle producers through field days, reports and a multi-state symposium.

    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.