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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: An Integrated Approach to Crop/livestock Systems: Wintering Beef Cows on Swathed Crops

Authors
item Karn, James - RETIRED,USDA-ARS,MANDAN
item Tanaka, Donald
item Liebig, Mark
item Ries, Ronald - RETIRED,USDA-ARS,MANDAN
item Kronberg, Scott
item Hanson, Jonathan

Submitted to: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 6, 2005
Publication Date: November 20, 2005
Citation: Karn, J.F., Tanaka, D.L., Liebig, M.A., Ries, R.E., Kronberg, S.L., Hanson, J.D. 2005. An integrated approach to crop/livestock systems: wintering beef cows on swathed crops. Renewable Agriculture and Food System 20(4):232-242.

Interpretive Summary: General farming traditionally included both crop and livestock production, but toward the end of the twentieth century farmers began to focus more on grain production, leaving livestock (cattle and sheep) production to ranchers with little tillable land. In recent years this practice has been questioned, thus in 1999 a multi-year integrated crop/livestock project was initiated near Mandan, ND, to determine if potential benefits could be realized by reintegrating these enterprises. The livestock portion of this project involved wintering dry pregnant beef cows on swaths of oat/pea and triticale crop residue and swathed drilled corn (RGSC), produced in a 3 year crop rotation . All three crops were present each year. Two replications of 10 Hereford cows were rotationally grazed on swathed forages from mid-November to mid-February for 3 years. Comparison treatments were: cows grazing swathed western wheatgrass (SWWG) and cows fed hay in a drylot. Cows on the RGSC treatment were also fed a 20% crude protein supplement of oat/pea and triticale grain. Drilled corn was swathed in late September and western wheatgrass in early October. Average 3-year winter-long weight gains were slightly lower for RGSC cows compared to drylot cows, with body condition scores generally followed the same pattern. Reproductive and calf performance data did not differ among wintering treatments. Average daily feed costs per cow over the three winters were US$0.49, 0.65 and 0.73 for RGSC, SWWG and baled hay in a drylot, respectively. Swath grazing did not appear to have any adverse affects on mid-aged beef cow performance and could potentially reduce winter feeding costs and manure handling problems. The main problem with swath grazing is potentially deep snow and swath icing.

Technical Abstract: Grain and livestock production have gradually been separated, as farmers have tended to specialize in one or the other. Some producers and scientists are beginning to question whether this is the best approach. Thus, an integrated crop/livestock project was initiated in 1999 to pursue potentially beneficial synergies to both enterprises. The cattle portion of this project involved wintering dry pregnant cows on swathed crop residue and drilled corn produced in a 3 year crop rotation, with all crops present each year. Swath grazing was initiated in mid-November of 1999, 2000 and 2001 and terminated in mid-February, each year. Two replications of 10 Hereford cows were rotationally grazed on swathed oat/pea and triticale crop residue and swathed drilled corn (RGSC). Comparison treatments were: cows grazing swathed western wheatgrass (SWWG) and cows fed hay in a drylot. Cows on the RGSC treatment were also fed a 20% crude protein supplement of oat/pea and triticale grain. Drilled corn was swathed in late September and western wheatgrass in early October. Three year average winter-long weight gains for the RGSC cows were slightly lower (P<0.10) than drylot cows. Body condition scores generally followed the same pattern as weight gain data. Reproductive and calf performance data were not significantly different among wintering treatments. Average daily feed costs per cow over the three winters were US$0.49, 0.65 and 0.73 for RGSC, SWWG and baled hay in a drylot, respectively, providing a potential daily savings of US$0.24 per cow with the RGSC treatment compared to bale feeding in a drylot. Swath grazing did not appear to have any adverse affects on mid-aged beef cow performance and could potentially reduce winter feeding costs and manure handling problems. The main problem with swath grazing is potentially deep snow and icing of the swaths.

Last Modified: 12/21/2014
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