story to find out more.
Beef-cattle gains of up to 50 pounds per head can
be achieved thanks to two new varieties of big bluestem that offer improved
forage quality and other traits. Image courtesy Jennifer Anderson,
USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.
New Prairie Grasses to Fatten Beef Cattle
By Jan Suszkiw
November 8, 2005
Two new varieties of big bluestem
prairie grass could boost beef cattle weight by as much as 50 pounds per head,
according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and collaborating university
The beef weight gains come from grazing trials in eastern Nebraska that
compared the new releases--named Bonanza and
Goldmine--to the Pawnee and Kaw varieties. The latter two cultivars
have been the leading big bluestems in the Central Plains and Midwest for more
than 40 years, a reign stemming from their broad adaptability to the regions'
diverse growing conditions.
Such adaptability is especially important on marginal cropland used for
cow-calf operations where the animals draw nutrients from forage rather than
Vogel, who leads ARS'
Sorghum and Forage Research Unit in Lincoln, Neb.
Pawnee and Kaw, however, were never specifically bred with forage quality in
mind, according to Vogel, a supervisory plant geneticist. Goldmine and Bonanza
offer the best of both worlds, combining adaptability with improved forage
quality. Vogel began breeding the big bluestems in 1977, and recently
field-tested them in collaboration with ARS Lincoln rangeland scientist
Mitchell and University of
Nebraska-Lincoln researchers Terry Klopfenstein and Bruce Anderson.
In pasture trials from 2000 to 2002, cattle that grazed the new big
bluestems gained 18 to 50 pounds more per acre than those that grazed Pawnee
and Kaw. The researchers estimate these gains could mean net-profit increases
of $15 to more than $35 per acre a year for beef producers. On marginal
cropland, yearling steers that grazed pastures of Goldmine and Bonanza
generated net profits of up to $119 per acre. That's 2.4 times more profit than
the producer would have earned from growing corn on the same land during the
same years, according to the researchers' estimates.
Certified seed of Goldmine and Bonanza will become available in 2006.
more about the research in the November 2005 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.