Biological and Economic Effects of Grazing Spring-Calving Cow-Calf Pairs on Improved Irrigated Pasture Using Creep Supplementation
Recent trends to develop farmland into improved irrigated pastures raise questions regarding the profitability of creep supplementing terminal-sired calves on these production systems. This study was initiated to answer these questions. Two previously established adjacent sprinkler-irrigated plots were separated into 2 paddocks. One plot (3.4 ha) consisted of a monoculture of Seine tall fescue while the other plot (3.9 ha) consisted of a mixture of Seine tall fescue, AC Grazeland Alfalfa, and Norcen birdsfoot trefoil. The mixture of the second plot consisted of 50% tall fescue, 37.5% alfalfa, and 12.5% birdsfoot trefoil. Plots were designated as monoculture no-creep supplement (MONOC) (1.7 ha), monoculture with creep supplement (MONOS) (1.7 ha), mixed forage no-creep supplement (MIXC) (1.95 ha), and mixed forage with creep supplement (MIXS) (1.95 ha). Twenty-four spring calving cow-calf pairs were stratified into 4 groups based on calf body weight, sex, breed, dam body weight, dam BCS, and breed. Management-intensive grazing practices were implemented with cattle receiving a new allotment of forage at 0800 daily. Cattle grazed in a west-to-east direction across the pasture completing a grazing circuit every 24 to 30 d. Pasture forage production was estimated using a 0.163 m2 clip-plot. Forage production each period was highest for cattle grazing MIXS (4492 kg DM/ha) followed by MIXC (4116 kg DM/ha) (P=.58). Production from the MIX plot differed from MONO plot (P<.0001). Similar to MIX pasture production MONOC (3154 kg/ha) and MONS (3058 kg/ha) did not vary (P=.4324). Carrying capacity differed among all treatments. The highest carrying capacity was observed in the MIXS group with 3.37 pair/ha. The next highest carrying capacity was in the MIXC group at 3.05 pair/ha, which differed from MIXS (P=.0404). There was a difference between MIXC and MONOS (2.38 pair/ha) (P=.0051). The lowest carrying capacity was observed in the MONOC group (2.07 pair/ha), differing from MONOS (P=.0450). Calf end weight was highest for the MIXS group (343 kg) and differed from MONOC group (298 kg) (P=.0272); no other groups differed. Profitability did not follow pasture productivity completely. Due to high supplemental feed costs MIXC was the most profitable management strategy ($72.03 cow/yr) and was $137.50 cow/yr more profitable than the least profitable strategy, MONOS. Results from this study show that grass-legume mixtures are much more productive than grass monocultures under irrigation and management-intensive grazing of cow-calf pairs. In addition, on these forage resources the practice of supplying creep supplementation to high-growth, terminal calves is not economically profitable.
School:Utah State University
School Location:USA - Utah
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:beef cattle creep feeding grazing improved irrigated pastures
Date of Publication:05/01/2009