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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Utilizing a Combination of Annual Cool-Season Grass and Perennial Warm-Season Grass Pastures for Finishing Beef Cattle

Authors
item Phillips, William
item Brown, Michael
item Holloway, J. - TEXAS A&M RES & EXT CTR
item Grings, Elaine
item Mayeux Jr, Herman

Submitted to: Proceedings of the National Conference on Grazing Lands
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: July 12, 2007
Publication Date: December 11, 2007
Citation: Phillips, W.A., Brown, M.A., Holloway, J.W., Grings, E.E., Mayeux Jr, H.S. 2007. Utilizing a combination of annual cool-season grass and perennial warm-season grass pastures for finishing beef cattle. Proceedings of the National Conference on Grazing Lands. 253-256.

Interpretive Summary: Stocker producers need new options for marketing perennial warm-season grasses that result in less economic risk and greater net returns and need ways of connecting cool- and warm-season production systems so that only one set of stockers need to be purchased each year. One option is to retain stocker calves at the end of the cool-season grazing period for finishing on warm-season grass pastures. By using a combination of heavy stocker calves coming off of cool-season grass pastures, intensive early grazing of warm-season grass pastures, and ad libitum access to high-energy feed while on pasture, we were able to produce finished beef directly off of pasture. Beef carcasses produced under our pasture finishing system had less back-fat than beef carcasses produced under a more conventional finishing system and required less feed inputs. Also animals fed on pasture have no waste disposal cost as compared to calves fed in confinement.

Technical Abstract: A series of experiments were conducted to determine the impact of breed of calf, pre-weaning management, and post-weaning finishing system on animal performance and carcass characteristics. Calves of different breeds from Arkansas, Texas and Montana were used in these experiments. Calves were shipped to Oklahoma in the fall and winter and used as stockers until the finishing period began in June of each year, when calves were randomly assigned to one of two finishing systems. The confinement system consisted of pens with concrete surfaces located in a barn with only the south side open. Calves assigned to the pasture finishing treatment were randomly assigned to warm-season grass pastures at a stocking rate of 4 calves/ac. In approximately 30 d, 80% of the standing forage had been removed and a self-feeder containing the same high-energy diet as that fed to the calves in the conventional finishing system was placed in each pasture. Calves had ad libitum access to the diet for the remainder of the finishing period. All calves were harvested when the back-fat thickness was 0.4 in or greater. Beef carcasses produced under the pasture finishing system had less back-fat thickness than beef carcasses produced under the conventional finishing system and required less feed input. Also animals fed on pasture have no waste disposal cost as compared to those fed in confinement. Our pasture finishing system would allow producers to market perennial warm-season grasses with less economic risk and generate greater net returns than using the conventional confinement feeding system. Retaining ownership of stockers at the end of the cool-season grass grazing season and finishing them on warm-season grass pastures would allow produces to market calves directly to the consumer as ‘pasture finished’ beef.

Last Modified: 12/18/2014
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