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ARS Home » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #50432


item Phillips, William

Submitted to: Journal of Production Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/2/1995
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Hard red winter wheat is grown throughout the Southern Great Plains region and is used as a high quality forage for young grazing beef cattle. The spring grazing period is characterized by rapid plant growth which must be utilized over a 40-50 day period. Rapid forage production coupled with a short grazing period and yearly production differentiate, making it difficult to accurately anticipate the number of calves needed to fully utilize the forage produced. This experiment measured animal performance and utilization of wheat forage produced in the spring under different stocking densities (number of animals per acre). The number of animals per land unit could be increased to insure full utilization of the forage produced, but supplemental feed must be provided to maintain good animal performance. Economic analysis of the data showed that if the supplemental feed was reasonably priced, the economic return per animal was equal to that under conservative stocking density. However, a higher stocking density would return more dollars per land unit because the number of animals per acre was higher. Forage-livestock managers can reduce the risk associated with over stocking spring wheat pastures by using supplemental feed to meet the difference between the nutrient needs of the animal and the nutrients provided by the wheat forage.

Technical Abstract: Predicting the optimum stocking density for wheat pastures during the 40-60 d grazing period in the spring limits the efficient utilization of wheat forage for stocker cattle production throughout the Southern Great Plains. The objective of this study was to determine individual animal performance, carrying capacity and economic return for wheat pastures grazed at three stocking densities. Steers averaging 671 lb grazed wheat pastures from March through May in the spring of 1987 and 1992. As stocking density increased, the amount of grain supplementation was increased from .6% to 1% of body weight to compensate for increased grazing pressure. The supplement contained 11.6% crude protein. Steers across all stocking densities gained 2.2 lb/d for the 44.5-d grazing season and beef production per acre increased (P<.05) with increasing stocking density. Steers consumed similar amounts of dry matter across treatment groups, but as supplementation level increased the steers substituted supplemental dry matter for wheat forage dry matter. Forage quality decreased (P<.05) as the plant matured, but the amount of forage available for grazing increased (P<.05). The stem portion of the plant increased with maturity and had a more consistent chemical composition than the leaf portion. For maximum forage utilization efficiency, stocking density for grazing spring wheat pastures can be set at a level high enough to insure maximum utilization of the forage, but supplemental grain must be provided to compensate for yearly variation in forage production.