Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 11, 2006
Publication Date: March 13, 2006
Citation: Crosson, P., Rotz, C.A., Sanderson, M.A. 2006. Environmental and economic evaluation of grass and corn based production systems on a maryland beef farm. American Forage and Grassland Conference Proceedings. Vol. 15. CDROM. Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.
Technical Abstract: Beef producers must consider management strategies and technologies for reducing potential adverse environmental effects of their farms while maintaining or improving profit. One choice is between using perennial grass or corn as the primary feed source. Whole-farm simulation was used to compare the long-term performance, environmental impact, and economics of corn and perennial grass based systems for an actual farm in northeastern Maryland. This farm typically includes 140 registered pedigree Angus cows and their progeny with feed produced on 325 acres of Chester silt loam and Gleneld loam soils. Prior to the early nineties, this farm relied heavily upon corn silage and grain production to meet feed needs. Since that time, the farm has been transitioned to all perennial grassland, intensively managed with rotational grazing. The 110 acres formerly in corn production are now renovated every 10 years using orchard grass or tall fescue interseeded with red clover or alfalfa. The remainder is permanent pasture of mostly tall fescue. Simulation results illustrate that the conversion has provided both environmental and economic benefits. Compared to the previous corn-based system, the current grass-based system has increased nitrogen loss through ammonia volatilization by 32%, but nitrate leaching is reduced 15%, denitrification loss is reduced 50%, and surface runoff loss of P is reduced 85%. This conversion also increased annual net return of the farm by $15,000 by reducing the greater machinery, fuel, seed, fertilizer, and chemical costs incurred in corn production. These potential benefits should encourage more producers and those advising producers in the northeast and mid Atlantic regions to consider greater use of grass in beef production systems where corn currently has a major role.