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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Management Tools to Increase the Efficiency of Winter Wheat-Stocker Enterprises

Authors
item Phillips, William
item Northup, Brian
item Mayeux Jr, Herman

Submitted to: Proceedings of the National Conference on Grazing Lands
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: July 12, 2006
Publication Date: December 11, 2007
Citation: Phillips, W.A., Northup, B.K., Mayeux Jr, H.S. 2007. Management tools to increase the efficiency of winter wheat-stocker enterprises. Proceedings 3rd National Conference on Grazing Lands. 253-526.

Interpretive Summary: To increase the efficiency and productivity of winter wheat stocker enterprises, the length of the grazing season must be extended and over-consumption of forage protein must be corrected. To address the first constraint, fescue pastures were grazed in conjunction with wheat pastures. By incorporating fescue into the grazing scheme, the fall grazing season could begin 30 to 40 d earlier than normal and the spring grazing season was extended by 30 to 40 days as compared to using wheat pasture as the only forage resource. To balance the stocker calf’s nutrient requirements, a combination of limit-grazing of winter wheat pastures, to reduce over-consumption of high protein wheat forage, and providing high energy supplemental feed, to provide needed energy, was used. Providing a high-energy supplemental feed in conjunction with limit-grazing of wheat pastures, reduced the amount of forage protein being wasted without reducing animal performance. By limit-grazing wheat pastures, stocking rate during the winter could be doubled. Higher stocking rates in the winter would result in more calves being available in the spring to take advantage of the greater carrying capacity of spring wheat pastures.

Technical Abstract: Over 23 million acres of winter wheat are planted in the southern Great Plains each year, and serves as the major feed resource used by regional stocker cattle enterprises. To increase the efficiency and productivity of winter wheat stocker enterprises, two constraints must be removed. First, length of the grazing season must be extended to increase the amount of BW gained/calf and secondly, the imbalance between dietary protein and energy concentrations must be corrected to decrease wastage of wheat forage protein. To extend the typical wheat grazing season, we used tall fescue pastures (Festuca arundinarea Var. Max-Q) for short periods in the fall (Oct. 23 to Nov 27) prior to grazing wheat and in the spring (April 21 to May 26) after wheat had been grazed out. During the fall grazing period, ADG was less (P< 0.01) as compared to the spring grazing period (1.25 lbs vs. 2.24 lbs) and the amount of calf BW produced/ac was also less (P < 0.01) in the fall than in the spring (130 lbs vs. 226 lbs). The tall fescue pastures used in this study were successfully used to start the fall grazing season earlier and in the spring to extend grazing into June. To address the second constraint, we used a combination of limit-grazing of wheat pasture and providing supplemental feed to more closely balance the amounts of protein and energy consumed by stocker calves and to reduce wastage of wheat forage protein. Limit-grazed calves were alternated between 28-h periods of grazing wheat pasture or being confined to dry lot. While in dry lot, calves were fed a mixed diet (11.9 lbs/calf) and hay (3.0 lbs/calf). Because ADG were not different (P = 0.13) between control (unlimited access to wheat pasture) and limit-grazed groups for the 120-d winter grazing period (1.58 lb vs.1.50 lb), we concluded that we had accomplished our goal of reducing wheat forage intake and balancing the protein:energy to reduce protein wastage. By limiting the amount of wheat consumed, we could double the stocking rate (calves/ac) during the winter grazing period and have more calves available to increase the stocking rate during the spring grazing period. By applying these two management tools, the traditional southern Great Plains stocker grazing season can be extended, the stocking rate during the winter wheat pasture grazing season can be increased, and wheat forage protein can be utilized more efficiently.

Last Modified: 12/17/2014
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