Year Round Beef Cattle Grazing Strategy to Eliminate or Reduce the Use of Stored Feeds
The 2005 growing season represented the third year of the study. Corn was planted for late winter grazing and pastures were renovated with cool-season grasses, clover and small grain crops to improve production and quality. Extreme heat and drought during this growing season resulted in poor corn production and a higher dependence on stored feed. Eastern gamagrass was a very important forage during this grazing season. Despite stressful weather conditions, beef cattle performance remained good and required frequent rotation among pastures. One of the most significant observations made during this project was the reluctance of one of our producers to adopt a much higher level of managment necessary to approach ouryear-round grazing objective. As a result, the opportunity to collect accurate and meaningful grazing data on one of our remaining two farms was lost as the management demand increased.
In 2005, our objectives in this year-round grazing study where as follows:
1. Continue to manage a warm-season grass base for mid-season grazing on each of the two remaining study site farms.
2. To renovate cool-season grass pastures for increased dry matter production and quality.
3. To continue monitoring animal performance with each shift in forage utilization (i.e. fall stockpile fescue, grazing corn, summer pasture, hay).
The most significant accomplishment of this project to date occurred this year as a “systems” approach to year-round grazing was fully recognized by our producers, agents and some specialists. Out of this 3 year effort, one site (producer) emerged with an understanding and determination to manage his forages and livestock to minimize the need for stored feed.
As a result of our work, one of our sites will be used for training producers in a new UK extension program entitled, “Master Grazer”.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
This field study has captured the attention of many beef cattle producers, agents and specialists in Kentucky. Local newspapers continue to follow the progress on each farm which keeps producer interest high. Until the results of this study are analyzed and summarized, it is difficult to predict what impact this work will have on the management practices of our beef cattle producers. I continue to receive calls from producers regarding the use of corn as a late season forage crop, the role of warm-season grasses and the use of small grains to extend the grazing season.