Cool-season Annual Grass, Grass-Forb, and Grass-Legume Forage Systems for Southeastern Beef Cattle Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $270,708.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2022
Grant Recipient: North Carolina State University
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Deidre Harmon
NC State University


  • Agronomic: annual ryegrass, clovers, grass (misc. annual), grass (misc. perennial), triticale, wheat
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Although planting a cool-season annual forage for soil stability and mitigation of environmental change has been highly adopted, little has been done to investigate the relationship between cool-season annual forage systems and their use as a livestock feed resource, and resulting impacts on soil health. Moreover, with beef producers facing continuous increases in feed and fertilizer costs, and rising pressures from public interest groups to become more sustainable, a winter annual forage plan that targets environmental stewardship and efficient plant and animal production is necessary. The utilization of cool-season annual grass, grass-forb, and grass-legume mixtures in beef cattle production systems has the potential to increase forage availability, productivity, and promote an environmentally sustainable farm agroecosystem. This proposal investigates the use of cool-season annual forages and forage mixtures at the plant, animal and environmental interfaces. The project team, consisting of both a forage and a livestock specialist, will establish field plots and a live animal experiment to determine soil health parameters, forage agronomic characteristics, harvesting techniques, and digestibility attributes of cool-season annual grass, grass-forb, and grass-legume mixtures. Collectively, these experiments will provide Southeastern beef cattle producers with science-based information and recommendations on utilizing cool-season annual forage systems profitably and sustainably.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Evaluate cool-season annual grass, grass-forb, and grass-legume forage systems for yield, forage distribution, and nutritive quality.
    • Determine the effects of a bacterial silage inoculant on forage nutritive value of ensiled cool-season annual forage and forage mixtures.
    • Determine in situ fiber digestibility from cool-season annual forage systems.
    • Quantify changes in soil health and nutrient management in cool-season annual forage systems.
    • Develop a comprehensive educational program for beef producers on the use of cool-season annual forages for grazing and ensiling.
    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.