Comparison of Stockpiled Bermudagrass + Annual Ryegrass and Traditional Hay-Only Winter Feeding Practices
A winter feeding program for beef cattle using stockpiled bermudagrass and ryegrass has the potential to reduce winter feeding costs when compared with traditional hay-only feeding practices. Due to environmental fluctuations, some years are more conducive to the practice. Due to the uncertainties associated with precipitation availability, an adequate supply of hay should be on hand for emergency feeding situations.
Following two years of study, the study has demonstrated the ability to provide adequate nutrition for cattle using standing bermudagrass and ryegrass, while savings landowners approximately $75 per cow per winter.
More information is required regarding the potential for using stockpiled bermudagrass in lieu of hay and we plan to continue monitoring the current strategy. Additional information is also needed regarding the use of stockpiling other warm-season perennial grasses.
Winter feeding is a significant portion of the annual variable costs associated with owning beef cattle. Data from various trials has indicated bermudagrass may be stockpiled during fall and grazed after frost to reduce winter feeding input costs (Woodle, 1958; Taliaferro, 1987; Evers et al., 2004) compared with traditional hay-only feeding programs. The addition of annual ryegrass may further reduce winter feeding costs (Redmon et al., 2005). Pasturing beef cows on stockpiled bermudagrass has not been well investigated, but the strategy may significantly reduce winter feeding costs. There are approximately 3.4 million head of cows in eastern Texas where bermudagrass is the dominant forage grass. These cows represent 63% of the total cow herd in Texas, thus savings realized using stockpiled bermudagrass and ryegrass could amount to several hundred million dollars. These savings could have an economic impact in excess of $1 billion on the state’s economy.
The objectives of this study are to: 1) Compare the feasibility of using stockpiled bermudagrass and annual ryegrass for wintering beef cows in East Texas as evidenced by animal performance, and 2) Compare the economics of using stockpiled bermudagrass and annual ryegrass for wintering beef cows in East Texas to traditional hay feeding programs.
Lack of normal precipitation during Sept of each year of the first two years of the study reduced forage DM production and probably CP content of the bermudagrass. Mean CP, however, still met the nutrient requirement for the dry, pregnant cow. Unfavorable growing conditions limited ryegrass production during late winter of 2004, but conditions improved in 2005, resulting in improved ryegrass DM production and CP content.
Cattle Body Condition Score (BCS) was greater (P0.05) during 2004-05. In either year, BCS did fall below 5.0 for either treatment.
Economic data analysis indicated a $75.50 advantage per cow over the winter for the BR treatment compared with the H treatment.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Based on the preliminary data from the study, Animal Science and Forage Science personnel have produced a fact sheet regarding the practice of using stockpiled bermudagrass and ryegrass as an alternative to hay-only winter feeding programs. This fact sheet has been made available on the Texas A&M University web site and the same information has been presented at literally dozens of educational meetings across the state. The same information will be made available at the annual Beef Cattle Short Course, attended by >1200 individuals each year and will continually be presented at educational meetings throughout the year. A third year of data will be available soon and the three year’s information will be be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for publication this year. One additional year of data will be obtained this fall/winter prior to submitting the final report.
Asst Prof and Extension Beef Cattle Specialist
Texas Cooperative Extension
PO Box 38
Overton, TX 75684
Office Phone: 9038346191
Professor Forage Management
Texas Agricultural Experiment Station
PO Box 100
Overton, TX 75684
Office Phone: 9038346191