Extension Number

ASL R1746


Forage Utilization and Beef Cow Nutrition

Publication Date



A year-round grazing system for spring- and fall-calving cows was developed to compare animal production and performance, hay production and feeding, winter forage composition changes, and summer pasture yield and nutrient composition to that from a conventional, or minimal land system. Systems compared forage from smooth bromegrass-orchardgrass-birdsfoot trefoil pastures for both systems in the summer and corn crop residues and stockpiled grass-legume pastures for the year-round system to drylot hay feeding during winter for the minimal land system. The year-round grazing system utilized 1.67 acres of smooth bromegrassorchardgrass- birdsfoot trefoil (SB-O-T) pasture per cow in the summer, compared with 3.33 acres of (SB-O-T) pasture per cow in the control (minimal land) system. In addition to SB-O-T pastures, the year-round grazing system utilized 2.5 acres of tall fescue-red clover (TFRC) and 2.5 acres of smooth bromegrass-red clover (SBRC) per cow for grazing in both mid-summer and winter for fall- and spring-calving cows, respectively. First-cutting hay was harvested from the TF-RC and SB-RC pastures, and regrowth was grazed for approximately 45 days in the summer. These pastures were then fertilized with 40 lbs N/acre and stockpiled for winter grazing. Also utilized during the winter for spring-calving cows in the year-round grazing system were corn crop residue (CCR) pastures at an allowance of 2.5 acres per cow. In the minimal land system, hay was harvested from three-fourths of the area in SB-O-T pastures and stored for feeding in a drylot through the winter. Summer grazing was managed with rotational stocking for both systems, and winter grazing of stockpiled forages and corn crop residues by year-round system cows was managed by strip-stocking. Hay was fed to maintain a body condition score of 5 on a 9 point scale for spring-calving cows in both systems. Hay was supplemented as needed to maintain a body condition score of 3 for fall-calving cows nursing calves through the winter. Although initial condition scores for cows in both systems were different at the initiation of grazing for both winter and summer, there were no significant differences (P > .05) in overall condition score changes throughout both grazing seasons. In year 1, fall-calving cows in the year-round grazing system lost more (P < .05) body weight during winter than spring-calving cows in either system. In year 2, there were no differences seen in weight changes over winter for any group of cows. Average daily gains of fall calves in the yearround system were 1.9 lbs/day compared with weight gains of 2.5 lbs/day for spring calves from both systems. Yearly growing animal production from pastures for both years did not differ between systems when weight gains of stockers that grazed summer pastures in the year-round grazing system were added to weight gains of suckling calves. Carcass characteristics for all calves finished in the feedlot for both systems were similar. There were no significant differences in hay production between systems for year 1; however, amounts of hay needed to maintain cows were 923, 1373, 4732 lbs dry matter/cow for year-round fall-calving, year-round spring-calving, and minimal land spring-calving cows, respectively. In year 2, hay production per acre in the minimal land system was greater (P < .05) than for the year-round system, but the amounts of hay required per cow were 0, 0, and 4720 lbs dry matter/cow for yearround fall-calving, year-round spring-calving, and minimal land spring-calving cows, respectively.

Copyright Owner

Iowa State University



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