Extending the Grazing Season and Integrating Crops and Livestock to Sustain Small Farms and Ranches in the Southern Rockies

Project Overview

SW95-018
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1995: $141,602.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1999
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $9,978.00
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Steven Guldan
New Mexico State University

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay, oats, rye, vetches
  • Vegetables: sweet corn, turnips
  • Animals: bovine

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing - rotational, pasture renovation, stockpiled forages, winter forage
  • Crop Production: cropping systems, intercropping, multiple cropping, relay cropping
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, new enterprise development, whole farm planning
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems

    Abstract:

    [Note to online version: the original report contained tables and figures that it was not possible to include here. The regional SARE office will be happy to send you a complete hard copy of the original report. Just contact Western SARE at (435) 797-2257 or wsare@ext.usu.edu.]

    The primary goal of our project is to develop forage production systems that extend the grazing season in the fall and provide more forage in the spring through overseeding of vegetable crops and irrigated pastures, and increased integration of crops and livestock. Overseeded species tested have included forage Brassicas, hairy vetch, winter rye, spring and winter oats, and triticale. The project includes a grazing study to determine the profitability of overseeding several of these crops into sweet corn to increase the forage value of the stover after sweet corn harvest. Sweet corn was harvested in August. Corn stover and annual forages were sampled in early November, and the fall grazing trial was conducted immediately thereafter. Paddocks were intensively grazed using stocker heifers for 4-5 weeks in the first two cycles of the trial, and about 9.5 weeks in the third cycle of the trial. In 1996 and 1997, total available forage was increased from 42 to 81 percent by overseeding oats or turnips, and overall nutritional quality was improved. Cattle average daily gain (ADG) and total gain per acre were not significantly improved by overseeding annual forages in either 1996 or 1997; however, the animals perhaps could have grazed longer in the oats and turnips treatments in 1996 and in the oats treatment in 1997 based on the amount of forage still left in the field in those treatments after cattle were removed. In 1998, however, average ADG and total gain per acre were improved substantially by overseeding forages. Preliminary economic analysis results from fall grazing indicate that, in terms of net gain per animal from grazing after subtracting overseeding costs, grazing oats and turnips were about as good as the control in year 1, but much better in year 3. In year 2, the control outperformed both the oats and turnips. Grazing turnips in year 2 would have resulted in the lowest returns and in year 3 the highest returns. Results from a second grazing study, spring grazing of rye and hairy vetch overseeded into sweet corn, indicate that stocker heifer gains were similar for both overseeded crops; ADG ranged from 1.6 to 1.9 for rye and 1.3 to 1.9 for hairy vetch. In the first and second year, hairy vetch forage was generally still available after the rye had been consumed, and so, for most of the replications, the animals were put back onto the hairy vetch after weighing for several more days of grazing. Trials were carried out at various farmer/rancher cooperator sites throughout the region and at the Alcalde Center in which pastures were overseeded with various summer and/or winter annual forages. We had limited success with summer annuals, and found that winter-annual forages, especially in the higher elevations where growing seasons are shorter, may offer a better chance to extend the grazing season of pastures through increased productivity the following spring or summer; but, there needs to be a good stand established by fall of the overseeding year.

    Project objectives:

    Objective 1: To determine the ability of forage Brassicas and oats (Avena sativa L.) to provide late-season forage, and hairy vetch and winter rye (Secale cereale L.) to provide early-season forage, when overseeded into sweet corn stalks.

    Objective 2: To determine the profitability of overseeding forage Brassicas, oats, hairy vetch, and winter rye into sweet corn stalks in terms of heifer average daily gain.

    Objective 3: To determine the ability of forage Brassicas and spring oats overseeded into established pastures to provide increased late-season forage.

    Objective 4: To disseminate to farmers and ranchers the results of the project.

    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.