Submitted to: Forage and Grazinglands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 20, 2006
Publication Date: January 20, 2007
Citation: Crosson, P., Rotz, C.A., Sanderson, M.A. 2007. Conversion from corn to grassland provides economic and environmental benefits to a Maryland beef farm. Forage and Grazinglands [online]. Available: http://www.plantmanagementnetwork.org/sub/fg/research/2007/beef/ Interpretive Summary: Major constraints or challenges to the long-term sustainability of livestock operations are profitability and environmental impact. Governmental guidelines and regulations related to nutrient management are encouraging, and in some cases forcing, producers to consider management changes. Pasture and cropping practices have an important role in farm management with both economic and environmental implications. When considering cropping changes, producers and those advising producers must consider the impacts occurring throughout the farm and between the farm and its environment. Whole-farm simulation provides a tool that can assist in this type of comprehensive assessment by considering all the major components, the important interactions among these components, and their impacts on farm performance, profitability, and the environment. Simulation of an Angus cattle producing farm in northeastern Maryland illustrated that the conversion of the farm from a corn and permanent pasture system to all perennial grassland with more intensive rotational grazing has provided both environmental and economic benefits. Nitrogen and phosphorus losses from the farm were reduced along with a $15,000 increase in annual farm profit. 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.
Technical Abstract: Beef producers must consider management strategies and technologies for reducing potential adverse environment effects of their farms while maintaining or improving profit. One choice is between using perennial grass or corn as the primary forage source. Perennial grass based production systems are generally regarded as more favorable due to reduced nutrient losses to the environment and potential human health benefits through improvements in meat fatty acid composition. Simulation of an Angus cattle producing farm in northeastern Maryland illustrated that the conversion of the farm from a corn and permanent pasture system to all grassland with more intensive rotational grazing has provided both environmental and economic benefits. Simulated nitrogen loss through ammonia volatilization was increased 16%, but nitrate leaching was reduced 25%, denitrification loss was reduced 50%, and surface runoff loss of P was reduced 75%. This conversion also increased the annual net return of the farm by $15,000 by eliminating the greater machinery, fuel, seed, fertilizer, and chemical costs incurred in corn production.