Submitted to: American Society of Animal Science Southern Section Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: November 21, 2006
Publication Date: February 6, 2007
Citation: Coleman, S.W. 2007. Complimentary forage systems for beef cows [abstract]. American Society of Animal Science Southern Section Meeting. 85(2): Paper No. 53. Technical Abstract: Cow-calf production systems comprise the predominant component of the beef cycle in the southern part of the U.S where almost 40% of the nation’s cow herd is located. Calves weaned in this region normally are transported either to the mid-west or the southern plains for growing, finishing, and harvesting. Forage production in the southern U.S. is dominated either by warm-season perennial grasses (Bermudagrass or Bahiagrass) in the Deep South and along the Gulf Coast, or by cool-season perennial grass (Fescue) in the Upper South. These grasses are highly productive during the growing season but are low to moderate in quality. The warm-season grasses die at first frost and do not grow during the winter, whereas Fescue is dormant during the heat of summer. Therefore, cows suited to the region must be able to consume and process large amounts of forage when available, and perhaps to withstand the feast-famine characteristic of the wet-dry tropics. Alternatively, forage systems may be developed to supply green forage through most of the year, and particularly when cows have high demand loads due to lactation or late gestation. These systems often include alternate forage crops to compliment the deficit from the staple forage supply. Examples are winter annuals, legumes, summer annuals, warm-season perennials in the Fescue belt and cool-season perennials where the warm-season plants dominate. The difficulty lies in the grazer’s ability to coax plants to grow where they are not particularly well-suited, and to optimize production while minimizing costs. Many of the forage species suitable as complimentary forages have been tested in plots, but information is severely lacking concerning their ability to persist, to withstand drought and other weather stressors, abusive grazing, and other adverse conditions that are often encountered. Systems models could perhaps help identify times of forage deficit and how alternate forage species might be used to fill the deficit.