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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


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Title: Livestock responses to complementary forages in shortgrass steppe

item Derner, Justin
item Hart, Richard

Submitted to: Great Plains Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/25/2009
Publication Date: 10/15/2010
Citation: Derner, J.D., Hart, R.H. 2010. Livestock responses to complementary forages in shortgrass steppe. Great Plains Research. 20(2):223-228.

Interpretive Summary: In the western Great Plains, forage gaps in the early spring and late fall exist for livestock producers due to the dominance of warm-season grasses. Livestock gains of heifers were evaluated for four years on two different complementary forage grasses (crested wheatgrass and Russian wildrye) stocked at two different rates. Average daily gains of the heifers did not differ with stocking rate for either complementary forage grass, but beef production was about 33% greater with moderate than light stocking. Three-fourths or more of the annual gain was obtained with spring grazing, and beef production on these complementary forages was two to four times greater than native vegetation. Both complementary forages can fill the forage gaps in this region and provide significant contributions to beef production for land managers.

Technical Abstract: Forage gaps for livestock producers exist in the spring and fall in shortgrass steppe because of dominance by the perennial warm-season grass blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis). Livestock gains of yearling Hereford heifers were evaluated during 1996-1999 on two complementary forage grasses [‘Bozoisky-Select’ Russian wildrye (Psathyrostachys juncea (Fisch.) Nevski) or ‘Hycrest’ crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum (L.) Gaertn. ssp. desertorum (Fisch. ex Link) A. Love] stocked at either light or moderate rates. Average daily gains (kg/hd/day) were similar between light and moderate stocking rates for both Bozoisky and Hycrest, and gains trended higher for Hycrest (0.83 to 1.13) than Bozoisky (0.84-0.94) at light stocking rates. Total annual (spring + fall) beef production (kg/ha) was consistently greater for moderate (29-46%) than light stocking for both complementary forages. Spring gains represented 75% or greater of the total annual beef production across forages for each stocking rate. Average daily gains on these complementary forages were similar to those on native prairie for the summer grazing season, but total annual beef production was two to four times greater with the complementary forages, suggesting that both Hycrest and Bozoisky can fill the forage gaps in shortgrass steppe and provide significant contributions to beef production.

Last Modified: 09/20/2017
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