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ARS Home » Plains Area » Woodward, Oklahoma » Rangeland and Pasture Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #323728

Research Project: Sustaining Southern Plains Landscapes through Plant Genetics and Sound Forage-Livestock Production Systems

Location: Rangeland and Pasture Research

Title: INVITED REVIEW: Getting more information from your grazing research beyond cattle performance 1,2

Author
item Gunter, Stacey
item Cole, Noel

Submitted to: Professional Animal Scientist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/2/2015
Publication Date: 1/21/2016
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/61847
Citation: Gunter, S.A., Cole, N.A. 2016. INVITED REVIEW: Getting more information from your grazing research beyond cattle performance 1,2. Professional Animal Scientist. 32(1): 31-41.

Interpretive Summary: Research examining the nutrition of grazing ruminant livestock can be a rewarding career; however, this type of science presents great challenges. Research of this type requires the scientist to make many assumptions, deal with great variability across a landscape, and requires careful planning to manage around these unknowns and produce a publishable product. Probably the most rewarding item to researchers in this field is the ability to collaborate with researchers from many other disciplines to evaluate an entire system. The knowledge that can be gained from studying a grazing system with collaborating scientist is valuable beyond a quantifiable number. Animal performance is a function of the soil-plant-animal-climate interactions with one factor affecting the other. One area of research that has been demonstrated in recent years has been that plant structure and mass will impact instantaneous intake rate and possibly total DMI. Struggles to predict dry-matter intake by grazing livestock have not been gifted with high predictive quality; the low prediction quality has probably resulted from minimal characterization of the sward and its integration in predictive models. Further, grazing management affects the other ecological services provided by a landscape. Ecological services are often thought of as just wildlife habitat, but these services also include carbon sequestration, water infiltration and runoff, nutrient management, and food and fuel production for a growing world population. We know that ruminants are significant emitters of carbon dioxide and methane and, with the current level of interest in climate change; research examining the effects of grazing management on ecological services can possibly be as valuable to producers as animal performance data alone. The only way producers will adapt sustainable grazing systems, is if these systems are as profitable as other opportunities for the same land resource. In the future, producers will need data showing the effects of their production systems on other ecological services. We will need to have those data in hand, because the public will be unwilling to wait a decade for scientist to produce it.

Technical Abstract: Research examining the nutrition of grazing ruminants can be a rewarding career; however, this type of science possesses great challenges. This type of research requires the scientist to make many assumptions, deal with great variability across a landscape, and requires careful planning to manage these unknowns and produce a publishable experiment. Probably the most rewarding item to researchers in this field is the ability to collaborate with researchers from other disciplines to evaluate an entire system. The knowledge that can be gained from studying a grazing system with collaborating scientist is valuable beyond a quantifiable number. Animal performance is a function of the soil-plant-animal-climate interactions with one factor affecting the other. One area of research that has been demonstrated in recent years has been that plant structure and mass will impact instantaneous intake rate and possibly total DMI. Struggles to predict DMI by grazing livestock have not been gifted with high predictive quality; the low prediction quality has probably resulted from minimal characterization of the sward and its integration in predictive models. Further, grazing management affects the other ecological services provided by a landscape. Ecological services are often thought of as just wildlife habitat, but these services also include carbon sequestration, water infiltration and runoff, nutrient management, and food and fuel production for a growing world population. We know that ruminants are significant emitters of carbon dioxide and methane and, with the current level of interest in climate change, research examining the effects of grazing management on ecological services can possibly be as valuable to producers as animal performance data alone. The only way producers will adapt sustainable grazing systems, is if these systems are as profitable as other opportunities for the same land resource. In the future, producers will need data showing the effects of their production systems on other ecological services. We will need to have those data in hand, because the public will be unwilling to wait a decade for scientist to produce it.