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Title: Improving productivity of winter wheat-stocker calf enterprises by including perennial cool-season grasses

item Northup, Brian
item Phillips, William
item Mayeux Jr, Herman

Submitted to: Proceedings of the National Conference on Grazing Lands
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/10/2006
Publication Date: 5/1/2007
Citation: Northup, B.K., Phillips, W.A., Mayeux Jr, H.S. 2007. Improving productivity of winter wheat-stocker calf enterprises by including perennial cool-season grasses [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the National Conference on Grazing Lands: Grazinglands, Gateway to Success, December 10-13, 2006, St. Louis, MO. p. 257.

Interpretive Summary: ABSTRACT ONLY

Technical Abstract: Each year, millions of yearling stocker cattle graze winter wheat or warm-season grasses in the southern Great Plains for low cost post-weaning gains en route to feedlots. This two-forage system has gaps when high quality forage is less available, which limits consistent gains by stockers. We undertook two studies in 2000 through 2004 to determine how introduced perennial cool-season grasses might affect the economic function of winter wheat-stocker calf enterprises. In one study, 5.0-acre pastures of two wheatgrass cultivars (9 pastures per cultivar) under three levels of nitrogen fertilization were grazed as partial replacements for wheat pasture for 55 days in November through December and 75 days in March through May. Stockers gained weight at roughly 80% of levels recorded for stockers grazing wheat over a 130-day period. Combining wheat and wheatgrass pastures supported grazing for 30 days longer than grazing wheat alone, and produced similar total gains at a lower annual cost. In the second experiment 9, 4.3-acre pastures of a novel non-toxic endophyte infected tall fescue were grazed by intensive stocking (3 times normal stocking rates) for 35-day grazing periods in the fall and spring as gap-filling forage, before and after wheat. Stockers during these periods gained an additional 145 lb per head at times when wheat or warm-season forages were not available. Combining fescue and wheat pasture produced higher returns per acre than grazing wheat alone at similar costs per unit gain. With proper grazing and fertilizer management, perennial cool-season grasses can function as partial replacements for wheat or as gap-filling forages and allow producers to lengthen the grazing season, produce cost-effective livestock gains, and potentially change marketing strategies for their product.