The University of Arizona

Complementary grazing of native pasture and Old World bluestem.

R.L. Gillen, W.A. Berg

Abstract


Native pasture and Old World bluestems (Bothriochloa spp.) have contrasting herbage production characteristics that suggest potential for incorporation into a complementary forage system. We compared 2 yearling beef production systems consisting of either native pasture (Native) or Old World bluestem combined with native pasture (Old World bluestem-Native) over 5 years. Crossbred steers (initial weight 257 kg) grazed only native pasture in the Native system, but alternated between Old World bluestem and native pastures in the Old World bluestem-Native system. Production system had no effect on the frequency of any plant species in the native pastures (P > 0.16) even though stocking rate in the growing season was increased 31% in the Old World bluestem-Native system. Peak standing crop of Old World bluestem averaged 4640 kg ha(-1) but did not differ between the cultivars 'WW-Iron Master' and 'WW-Spar' (P = 0.16). Individual steer gain was higher in the Native system during the Winter (P < 0.01) and Early Native (P = 0.03) management periods, but was greater in the Old World bluestem-Native system when steers were grazing Old World bluestem in June and July (P < 0.001). Over the entire season, steers in the Native system gained 13.5 kg head(-1) more than steers in the Old World bluestem-Native system. Total livestock production was greater in the Old World bluestem-Native system (77 versus 47 kg ha(-1), P < 0.01). Relative economic returns between the 2 systems were dependent on the marginal value of livestock gain and the relative costs of production for the 2 types of pasture. With average costs for native pasture of $17 ha(-1) and for Old World bluestem pasture of $62.10 ha(-1), the Native system was often more profitable, even though livestock production per ha was much higher with the Old World bluestem-Native system. Lower costs for native pasture and high values of livestock gain favored the Native system.

DOI:10.2458/azu_jrm_v54i4_gillen


Keywords


growth period;costs and returns;economic analysis;liveweight gain;stocking rate;pastures;profitability;Oklahoma;biomass production;botanical composition;grazing;beef cattle;forage

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