Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/31/2000
Publication Date: 2/15/2001
Citation: Coleman, S.W., Phillips, W.A., Volesky, J.D., Buchanan, D. 2001. A comparison of native tallgrass prairie and plains bluestem forage systems for cow-calf production in the Southern Great Plains. Journal of Animal Science. 79:1697-1705.
Interpretive Summary: Winter feed is one of the greatest costs for cow-calf producers. Standing dormant forage from native rangeland can supply a relatively cheap source of energy provided protein can be supplied elsewhere. Improved warm-season perennial grasses can increase total production, but with increased costs for fertilizer and provided adequate moisture is available. We compared three systems for cow-calf production to determine if winter wheat pasture grazed intetmittently could provide protein supplement to cows grazing native rangeland or Plains Bluestem. We also compared productivity of Plains Bluestem and native range. Cows sired by Charolais, Gelbvieh, Angus or Hereford bulls were used in the study. Cow weights and body condition scores were similar among systems, but Charolais and Gelbvieh were taller and heavier than Angus and Hereford. Furthermore, they weaned larger calves. There were interactions among cow breed and systems, however, suggesting that all breeds of cow might not fit every system. Haying appears necessary for the Plains Bluestem, both to maintain higher quality forage during the growing season and for winter feed when the grass is dormant. However, production is higher per unit area of land and excess hay could be sold. Wheat pasture grazed twice weekly can adequately provide the protein needs to supplement dormant warm-season perennial grass forage and may reduce costs over cottonseed cake for winter protein supplement. Because of higher stocking rates, Plains Bluestem produced about 2.5 times as much beef per hectare as the native systems, but at the expense of annual fertilizer.
Technical Abstract: The objective of this study was to compare a highly productive introduced warm-season perennial grass to native rangeland for cow-calf production over three years. Three systems, 1) native rangeland with pelleted soybean or cottonseed meal as winter protein supplement (NC); 2) native rangeland with wheat pasture (NW); and 3) Plains Bluestem with wheat pasture (PB) were compared. Protein supplements were given twice weekly, and cows grazing wheat pasture were allowed 6 hours to graze. System did not influence size and condition of cows nor performance of calves. Charolais- and Gebvieh sired cows were taller and heavier than Angus- or Hereford-sire s and weaned heavier calves. A system x dam breed of sire interaction was observed for weight change during the winter and summer, for cow weight at both breeding and weaning and for calf weaning weight and rate of growth. Angus-sired cows were heavier on the NW system whereas Gelbvieh- and Charolais-sired cows were lightest on that system. Calves from Charolais sired cows were heaviest on the NC system while calves from Hereford-sired cows were lightest on the NW system. In general, we conclude that wheat pasture limit grazed is a viable alternative as protein supplement for wintering dry cows and that while PB has 2.5 times the carrying capacity of native range, increased productivity is offset by increased production costs in fertilizer and hay making. All systems were equal for providing nutrients for the cow calf production system.