The University of Arizona

Windrow grazing and baled-hay feeding strategies for wintering calves.

J.D. Volesky, D.C. Adams, R.T. Clark

Abstract


Management practices that lower livestock production costs are of interest to ranch enterprises. Windrow or swath grazing is a strategy where livestock directly graze windrow-stored forage, generally during a time when packaged hay or some other feed is provided. The objectives of this study were: 1) to quantify calf performance and forage intake and waste under windrow grazing (windrow) and bale-fed (bale) management strategies; 2) to quantify hay quality changes as affected by storage method and time; 3) to determine the effects of windrow coverage on subsequent meadow herbage yield and composition; and 4) to compare costs and returns associated with windrow and bale strategies. The forage source was wet meadow dominated by cool-season perennial species with alternating windrows baled and the remaining windrows left in place for direct grazing. Weaned steer calves were fed baled hay or grazed windrows during a November-January period each of 2 years. Windrow grazing calf gains were greater (P < 0.05) than bale-fed during the first year of the study but gains were similar during the second year. Greater weight gain for windrow calves during the first year was likely due to the presence of high quality regrowth that occurred after hay harvest. Diet samples collected from fistulated windrow animals in December contained 14.6% crude protein (CP) compared to 10.4% for hand-collected samples of windrows (P < 0.05). Crude protein content of windrow- and baled-stored forage was similar (10.6%, P > 0.05) during all sampling months (September-February). Crude protein content of standing (stockpiled) forage declined to 5.7% by February. Acid detergent fiber (ADF) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) were similar between windrow and standing storage treatments during all months and higher than bales from November through February. Herbage yield was 20% less in the area directly covered by windrows the previous fall and winter compared to the control (P < 0.05). However, only about 9% of the total area of a pasture is affected by windrow-coverage when 1-m wide windrows are created 11 m apart, resulting in an overall herbage yield reduction of 1.5%. Total forage production costs for the bale-fed strategy were about $63 ha(-1) (37%) higher than windrow grazing due to baling and bale moving costs. Feed costs averaged $0.16 head(-1) day(-1) for windrow and $0.30 head(-1) day(-1) for the bale strategy. When production data were applied to market prices for the previous 7 years, the mean net return ha(-1) for windrow exceeded the net return for the bale strategy by about $93 and the net return for a strategy that directly sold the hay by $174.

DOI:10.2458/azu_jrm_v55i1_volesky


Keywords


agricultural prices;baling;bales;windrows;windrowing;losses;controlled grazing;production costs;liveweight gain;fiber content;Nebraska;hay;profitability;beef production;steers;crude protein;range management;crop yield;beef cattle;forage

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