Skip to main content
ARS Home » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #280598

Title: Growing beef cattle: The future of stocker/backgrounding systems in beef production

item BECK, PAUL - University Of Arkansas
item ANDERS, M - University Of Arkansas
item Gunter, Stacey
item HUBBELL, D - University Of Arkansas
item GADBERRY, S - University Of Arkansas
item WATKINS, BRAD - University Of Arkansas

Submitted to: American Society of Animal Science Annual Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/3/2012
Publication Date: 9/15/2012
Citation: Beck, P., Anders, M., Gunter, S.A., Hubbell, D., Gadberry, S., Watkins, B. 2012. Growing beef cattle: The future of stocker/backgrounding systems in beef production. Journal of Animal Science. Volume 90, Supplement 3, #598.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Grazing small grain forage can be a profitable “2nd crop” for grain producers and an opportunity for retained ownership of weaned calves for cow-calf producers. The costs of conventional tillage methods and movement of soil nutrients into streams and watercourses creates a need for more sustainable production practices. Systems based research at the Livestock and Forestry Research Station near Batesville, AR and the Southwest Research and Extension Center near Hope, AR has been conducted over a 9-yr span to characterize the impacts of pasture systems on forage production, animal performance, soil quality, water runoff, and economics of stocker cattle enterprises. Compared to both bermudagrass or toxic endophyte infected tall fescue (the predominant forages in the Southeastern US), gains of growing cattle are increased by 80% with non-toxic endophyte infected tall fescue and 150% with small grain forages. Producers with spring calving cowherds can utilize these improved forages to accelerate stocker programs with retained calves. Economic analysis indicates a 99% improvement in net returns for producers retaining ownership of calves with these production systems. Rainfall simulation indicates that runoff volume and nutrient load does not differ between conventionally tilled fields and no-till fields in the spring prior to tillage when surface cover is similar. In the fall, following tillage operations, conventionally tilled fields had 4-times greater runoff, 1.9-times greater N, and 3.2-times greater P leaving the field in runoff compared with no-till. Total natural rainfall runoff from conventionally tilled wheat fields were 2-times greater than that from no-till fields with 2.5 cm rainfall events yet were 4-times greater with 6.25 cm rainfall events. Soil analysis shows that soil aggregate content was greater in no-till compared with conventional till, indicating greater soil porosity, improved water infiltration rate and reduced erositivity of soil. Carbon content of no-till soils was 50% greater than conventional tillage indicating increased C sequestration. Together, these studies show that production systems can be designed that provide improved production economics, increased soil quality and carbon sequestration, and reduced nutrient loads of streams and water ways that also do not decrease productivity of pastures.