Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: April 19, 2011
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Feed costs during the late-fall and winter periods represent the greatest cost to cow-calf production in the northern Great Plains. Integration of crop and livestock enterprises may improve sustainability through synergisms among enterprises reducing waste and improving productivity, and providing both economic and natural resource benefits. Our objective was to determine the effect of annual crops grazed in late-fall (late September through December) on the costs of maintaining cows and calves during this period. An experiment was initiated in 2006, with the first year of crop data collected in 2007, comparing three grazing/feeding systems. Treatments included a three year annual cropping system (Annuals), Altai wildrye pasture (Altai), and perennial grass pasture plus supplemental chopped grass hay if needed (Control). The Annuals treatment included 1) oats with a cover crop of alfalfa/hairy vetch/red clover, 2) sorghum x sudan with a cover crop of sweet clover and red clover, and 3) corn harvested for grain. All forage or stover was swath grazed by livestock. For 2007-2010, Altai and Annual systems required less labor and lower net costs than the Control each year, and under widely varying weather conditions. Average net costs per cow for the late-fall period were reduced by nearly $100 for Altai and nearly $200 for Annual systems relative to the Control. While total production costs for the Annual systems were higher than for other systems, sale of corn grain from the Annual systems was enough to cover all feeding costs for the late-fall period, generating net income of $20 per cow. Therefore, using annual crops and crop residue for late-fall grazing may be a way to substantially reduce feeding cost for beef cattle in the northern Great Plains.