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ARS Home » Plains Area » El Reno, Oklahoma » Oklahoma and Central Plains Agricultural Research Center » Livestock, Forage and Pasture Management Research Unit » Research » Research Project #442608

Research Project: Enhancing Beef Cattle Production and Finishing Systems in the Southern Great Plains

Location: Livestock, Forage and Pasture Management Research Unit

Project Number: 3070-31630-008-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jul 26, 2022
End Date: Jul 25, 2027

Objective 1. Evaluate production efficiency in reproductive beef cattle within conventional and unconventional production systems in the Southern Great Plains. Sub-objective 1.A: Quantify dynamics of C and energy balances of southern tallgrass prairie in response to grazing systems, prescribed burns, and biophysical factors. Sub-objective 1.B: Evaluate the rumen biome of cows managed on different pasture types. Objective 2. Evaluate nutrient-use and production efficiency in terminal beef cattle within conventional and unconventional forage-based growing and finishing systems in the Southern Great Plains. Sub-objective 2.A: Define the value of annual forage mixes as sources of ecosystem services in warm-season row crop rotations: livestock performance, soil condition, C, and energy budgets. Objective 3. Utilize new and existing technologies to remotely improve herd health monitoring, and improve management practices for increased overall system efficiency and sustainability. Sub-objective 3.A: Evaluate body condition, reproduction efficiency, and rumen microbiome of cows under different systems of pasture-based management.

Over the last half century, annual U.S. beef production has increased with fewer cows in the national herd by harvesting larger animals. While feed costs represent the single largest expense in beef production, less than 20% of the post-weaning feed energy consumed is converted to edible product. As competition for and the price of feed-grains increases due to growing global human population, use of grains for energy production, and other requirements, beef production enterprises will need to transition from greater grain/inputs dependency to greater reliance on forage resources (pasture and rangeland) produced on lands not suitable for more intensive crop production. We propose to increase on-farm forage system nutrient quality during the typical dormant season, reduce outside-sourced supplement dependence, and evaluate multiple forage systems for efficiency in terms of water, soil, and nutrient supply. The research effort will allow for improvement in efficiency and sustainability of forage-based cow/calf and beef cattle production systems within the southern Great Plains. Additionally, evaluation of animal genetic by forage system management/type interactions will further allow the improvement of forage-based production systems in the Southern Great Plains (SGP) and globally. The end result will be improved efficiency of beef production from enhanced grassland-, pasture-, and forage-based systems with less grain and fossil fuel inputs, less need for capital through increased use of on-farm products, and increased competitiveness and profitability for producers. To accomplish this goal, the impact of animal genetics and management interactions on animal/system nutrient-use efficiency, health, and the beef system components must be better understood.