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ARS Home » Plains Area » Woodward, Oklahoma » Rangeland and Pasture Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #330621

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

Location: Rangeland and Pasture Research

Title: Invited review: Matching forage systems with cow size and environment for sustainable cow-calf production in the southern region of the United States

Author
item Beck, Paul - University Of Arkansas
item Gadberry, Shane - University Of Arkansas
item Gunter, Stacey
item Kegley, Elizabeth - University Of Arkansas
item Jennings, John - University Of Arkansas

Submitted to: Professional Animal Scientist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/8/2016
Publication Date: 5/24/2017
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/5700695
Citation: Beck, P.A., Gadberry, S., Gunter, S.A., Kegley, E.B., Jennings, J.A. 2017. Invited review: Matching forage systems with cow size and environment for sustainable cow-calf production in the southern region of the United States. Professional Animal Scientist. 33(3):289-296.

Interpretive Summary: There has been increased interest in intensification of cow-calf production on limited land areas because of an increasing world population and red meat demand along with reductions in available grazing lands. Over the last 40 years, mature cow size has increased by over 30%, increasing their feed requirements, reducing pasture carrying capacity, and increasing other input costs associated with cow maintenance. 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. 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. 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 body weight 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.

Technical Abstract: Due to increasing red meat demand from the projected increase in world population coupled with reductions in available grazing lands, there has been increased interest in intensification of cow-calf production. Mature cow size has increased by over 30% since the mid-1970s, increasing cow ME requirements, reducing pasture carrying capacity, and increasing other input costs associated with cow maintenance. Research from the 1960s and 1970s indicates that in limited resource environments (western plains states for instance), the reduced efficiency of larger cows may be a limiting factor to the economics of production, whereas in less restricted environments (higher rainfall environments such as the humid southern states or in dry-lot feeding systems), mature cow size may not be a significantly limiting factor. 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 and stored forages as well as fertilizer and fuel inputs to the enterprise. Integration of multiple management technologies (rotational grazing, stockpiling both cooland 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 cow herds 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.