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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Integrating Cattle Grazing into a Dryland Wheat Sorghum Fallow Rotation

Authors
item BAUMHARDT, ROLAND
item Greene, L - TAES

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: November 30, 2004
Publication Date: December 1, 2004
Citation: Baumhardt, R.L., Greene, L.W. 2004. Integrating cattle grazing into a dryland wheat sorghum fallow rotation. In: Rainwater, K.A. editor. 2004 High Plains Groundwater Resources: Challenges and Opportunities, December 7-9, 2004, Lubbock, Texas. p. 1-5.

Interpretive Summary: Dryland wheat and grain sorghum are often grown on the southern Great Plains in a wheat-sorghum-fallow (WSF) crop rotation because it consistently produces two dryland crops in a three year cycle. Adding cattle grazing of wheat forage and sorghum stubble can increase profit from this rotation. Greater dryland profitability is a must for the successful transition from irrigated to dryland cropping systems. We compared crop yield of a dryland WSF rotation with or without grazing. All phases of the WSF rotation were duplicated for grazed or ungrazed plots in three replicates on 40 acres. Cattle were stocked for the prevailing wheat conditions or about 1 head/acre. Cattle body weight gain, forage and grain yield, residue production, precipitation, and soil water contents were measured for each rotation phase in a study initiated in 1998. Typically, sufficient wheat forage was produced for 32 days grazing with a mean 140 lbs/acre gain and no significant reduction of mean wheat yield. Where wheat was grazed-out in 2001, cattle consumed 90% of the wheat residue and gained 130 lbs/acre. But, without this residue, there was limited soil water storage during fallow and the next sorghum crop failed. Timely removal of grazing cattle from wheat did not decrease residue or the subsequent sorghum crop yields. Grazing dryland wheat increased overall productivity of the WSF crop rotation when wheat is not grazed-out.

Technical Abstract: Dryland wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and grain sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] are often grown on the southern Great Plains using the wheat-sorghum-fallow (WSF) crop rotation because it consistently produces two dryland crops in a three year cycle. Integration of cattle grazing on wheat forage and sorghum stubble may intensify production and increase profitability of the WSF rotation for use in a successful transition from irrigated to dryland cropping systems. Our objective was to compare crop yield of a dryland WSF rotation with or without grazing cattle stocked for the prevailing wheat forage conditions or about 2 head ha-1. All phases of the WSF rotation were duplicated for grazed or ungrazed plots in three replicates within a 16 ha area. Cattle body weight gain, forage and grain yield, residue production, precipitation, and soil water contents were measured for each rotation phase in a study initiated in 1998. Typically, sufficient wheat forage was produced for 32 days grazing with a mean 140 kg ha-1 gain and no significant reduction of mean wheat yield. Where wheat was grazed-out in 2001, cattle gained 130 kg ha-1 but consumed 90% of the wheat residue. Without this residue, soil water storage during fallow was negligible and the subsequent sorghum crop failed. In other years, timely removal of grazing cattle from wheat did not affect residue amounts or the subsequent sorghum crop. Grazing dryland wheat may successfully increase overall productivity of the WSF cropping system provided wheat residue production is protected from graze-out.

Last Modified: 9/29/2014
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