Year Round Beef Cattle Grazing Strategy to Eliminate or Reduce the Use of Stored Feeds

Project Overview

OS03-009
Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2003: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:

Annual Reports

Commodities

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

Practices

  • Animal Production: manure management, mineral supplements, grazing - multispecies, pasture fertility, pasture renovation, grazing - rotational, stockpiled forages, vaccines, watering systems, winter forage, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: no-till, nutrient cycling, conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance
  • Soil Management: soil analysis

    Abstract:

    Three steep terrain Eastern Kentucky farms typical of most in the Appalachian region of the United States were chosen to conduct a demonstration of animal and forage management to maximize grazing and minimize feeding of stored forage for beef cow – calf production. The livestock forage management plans for these farms required very intensive management which included frequent pasture rotation, establishment of several perennial and annual forage crops, close attention to beginning and ending grazing heights, planting dates, fertilization and detailed record keeping. At the end of this study, only one of the three producers successfully implemented and executed the grazing plan for the two year duration of this study. It became apparent by year 2 that the year-round grazing plan we were testing required a much higher level of management than most eastern Kentucky producers would or could commit to providing. This is perhaps one of the most important and unexpected results of this study. Results from the one successful farm completing the study are presented in this final report.

    Tables and Figures mentioned in this report
    are on file in the Southern SARE office.
    Contact Sue Blum at 770-229-3350 or
    sueblum@southernsare.org for a hard copy

    Introduction

    In summary, the year round grazing system tested during this 2 year study period reduced hay feeding from a state average of 120 days to 81 days by year 2. Based on our economic evaluation of this grazing system, the variable cost of establishing multiple forage species for grazing is less than the cost of feeding hay. An increase in animal performance and grazing days from year 1 to year 2 are indicators that a multi-forage species grazing system requires a high level of management and experience that takes time to develop. Only one of the three producers that started this grazing study successfully implemented and executed the grazing plan. This suggest that grazing systems designed to reduce hay feeding by establishing and managing multiple forage species for grazing require a greater labor and management input than most small scale, part-time livestock producers are willing to invest into their livestock operations.

    Figure 1. Year Round Grazing Planning Map.

    Project objectives:

    1. To implement a beef cattle grazing system that includes cool-season, warm-season and summer annuals to extend the grazing season and reduce the amount stored feed utilized.

    2. To measure the effect of a year-round grazing system on animal performance (i.e. weight gain, body condition, conception rate and weaning weights).

    3. To evaluate the economics of a year-round grazing system that requires the establishment and management of an assortment of forage species.

    4. To establish a year-round grazing farm for educational and demonstation purpose in the region.

    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.