Submitted to: Southern Conservation Tillage Systems Conference
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: April 5, 2007
Publication Date: June 25, 2007
Citation: Schomberg, H.H., Reeves, D.W., Fisher, D.S., Raper, R.L., Endale, D.M., Jenkins, M. 2007. Evaluating stocker cattle in a southern Piedmont conservation tillage cotton-cover crop system to increase productivity. Southern Conservation Tillage Systems Conference. Technical Abstract: Cotton producers are often reluctant to plant winter cover crops because of added cost. However, grazing of winter annual cover crops by stocker cattle may help offset cover crop costs and increase farm revenue. Identifying temporal and spatial management needs within cropped/grazed fields can help to maximize profits in mixed cropping and grazing systems. In fall 2005, we began research to evaluate stocker cattle effects on conservation tillage cotton grown a Cecil soil (fine, kaolinitic, thermic, Typic Kanhapludult) at the USDA-ARS Research Center, Watkinsville, GA. The research was conducted on four long-term conservation systems watersheds. In the first year, cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) herbage grew from approximately 1000 lbs/acre in February to 8000 lbs/acre in mid April. The area was grazed with ~ 40 Angus heifers (Bos taurus) for 10 days (in April) and provided an estimated 4000 lbs/acre of forage. We estimated that 10 animals would have been able to defoliate 7 acres with reasonable efficiency between February 1st and April 15th. Cotton was planted May 12th and 15th just prior to 10 days of cool weather which delayed germination and growth. Cotton was harvested in the fall of 2006 using a picker with a yield monitor. Yields ranged from 2140 lbs/ac to 2950 lb/ac. No significant yield differences were detected between grazed and ungrazed fields (both treatments averaged approximately 2500 lb/ac). After ginning our yield per acre averaged 2.1 bales/ac. Preliminary results indicate grazing cover crops can be a viable option for cotton producers in the Southern Piedmont because of the potential to increase revenues from grazing without reducing cotton yields.