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Title: Matching forage systems with cow size and environment for sustainable cow-calf production in the southern region

item BECK, PAUL - University Of Arkansas
item GADBERRY, SHANE - University Of Arkansas
item Gunter, Stacey
item JENNINGS, JOHN - University Of Arkansas

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science Supplement
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/3/2015
Publication Date: 3/25/2016
Citation: Beck, P., Gadberry, S., Gunter, S.A., Jennings, J. 2016. Matching forage systems with cow size and environment for sustainable cow-calf production in the southern region. Journal of Animal Science Supplement. 94(Suppl. 1):63. (Abstr.).

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: There has been increased interest in intensification of cow-calf production due to an increasing world population and red meat demand along with reductions in available grazing lands. Intensified production can come about by increasing fertilization, supplementation, or feeding of stored forages, but the sustainability of total reliance on these management applications is questionable. Forage management strategies, which include targeted fertilization, stockpiling, and complementary forages can be incorporated with improved grazing management to reduce reliance on often expensive supplemental feed, fertilizer, and fuel inputs to the enterprise. Stockpiled warm-season grasses have been shown to provide forage during the fall and early winter, but significant losses in nutrient availability over time limits their use to a 60-day window between mid-October and mid-December. Incorporation of complementary cool-season forages into the production system both extends the grazing season and provides high-quality forage to replace hay or dormant warm-season grasses, but maintaining cool-season perennials can be difficult and replanting annuals is expensive. Intensification of grazing management through rotational grazing improves harvest efficiency by grazing livestock and can improve persistence of difficult to maintain forages in the grazing system. Over the last 40 yr, mature cow size has increased by over 30% and increased the ME requirements of the cows reducing pasture carrying capacity and increasing other input costs associated with cow maintenance. Further, increasing mature cow size decreases production efficiency of the cowherd. Research from the 1960’s and 1970’s indicates that in limited resource environments (western part of the Southern Plains) the reduced efficiency of large cows may be a limiting factor to economics of production, while in higher rainfall environments (western Gulf Coastal Plains) mature cow size may not be a significantly limiting factor. Integration of multiple management technologies (rotational grazing, stockpiling both cool- and warm-season perennials, and planting cool-season annuals) into a production system has been shown to enable increased stocking rates and calf BW weaned per hectare, while also decreasing the requirement for conserved forages. By intensifying the management of cowherds and pastures, ranch carrying capacity can be increased and thereby increase available stocking rates, offset the effects of increased cow mature size, increase total system productivity, and provide for an economically sustainable cow calf production system.