July 2, 2015 - Feed and production input costs are the primary economic inputs of the cattle industry. As input costs increase, producers and cattle are asked to be more efficient to satisfy global food demands. Furthermore, the amount of land available for cattle production in the United States has decreased over the past 10 years. Improvements with marginal land and marginal-quality harvested feeds are being considered.
Three studies were recently published in the Journal of Animal Science that were highlighted at the Forages and Pastures Symposium at JAM in 2015 titled "Use of marginal lands and fibrous byproducts in efficient beef and dairy production systems." Each paper focuses on improving the efficiency of cattle production, keeping costs at a minimum and considering ecological balance.
Because of an increased conversion of pasture land into crop land, the need for alternative feeds such as corn residue have increased. Crop residues are more available than ever before.
Dr. James MacDonald, coauthor on "Optimizing the use of fibrous residues in beef and dairy diets", said, "corn residue has the potential to be a critical forage resource for beef producers working in regions with integrated beef cattle-cropping systems."
Benefits may also be multifaceted. "These new systems may provide an opportunity for new or young producers to enter into beef production, and allow for beef cow/calf numbers to expand," said MacDonald.
MacDonald, Watson and others review grazing corn residues in both cow and growing cattle systems. They also discuss calcium oxide treatment of residues and cattle performance responses with byproduct inclusions.
In respect to future research with calcium oxide, MacDonald said, "we must make progress in improving the simplicity and ease of treatment for producers to adopt the technology."
Producers must evaluate costs of not only the treatment, but also corn and other ingredients. In some areas, there are opportunities for a "central processing depot from which feed is delivered to the cattle producers" to alleviate overall time and costs.
Secondly, in "Improving soil health and productivity on grasslands using managed grazing of livestock", Russell and Bisinger state "plant community diversity, soil organic carbon content, and wildlife habitat of grasslands may be improved by grazing." Grazing also helps control water infiltration rate by having adequate ground cover.
"Appropriate management of stocking rate, number and size of grazing units, and length of the grazing and rest intervals in grazing systems may enhance the delivery of ecological services," said Russell.
However, current research represents more of a snapshot in time, and according to Russell, there is a "need for long-term integrated ecological assessment of grazing management practices at a number of locations."
A third topic discussed at the Forages and Pastures Symposium was "Improving efficiency of production in pasture- and range-based beef and dairy systems". Mulliniks and colleagues believe that for sustainable production, cow type needs to match their production environment. They additionally say there needs to be a decreased reliance on harvested feedstuffs, achieved by improving grazing management.
Overall, Mulliniks and coworkers review management strategies to reduce feed costs through grazing in dairy and beef systems.
To make the most out of marginal lands and marginal-quality feeds in efficient cattle production systems, "land managers will need to prioritize goals for the development of the most desirable system for their operation," said Russell.
This may mean using one or all three of the aforementioned strategies.
Mulliniks, J. T., A. G. Ruis, M. A. Edwards, S. R. Edwards, J. D. Hobbs, and R. L. G. Nave. 2015. FORAGES AND PASTURES SYMPOSIUM: Improving efficiency of production in pasture- and range-based beef and dairy systems. J. Anim. Sci. 93:2609-2615. doi:10.2527/jas2014-8595.
Poore, M. H., and J. W. Lehmkuhler. 2015. FORAGES AND PASTURES SYMPOSIUM: Use of marginal lands and fibrous byproducts in efficient beef and dairy production systems. J. Anim. Sci. 93:2607-2608. doi:10.2527/jas2015-9127.
Russell, J. R. and J. J. Bisinger. 2015. FORAGES AND PASTURES SYMPOSIUM: Improving soil health and productivity on grasslands using managed grazing of livestock. J. Anim. Sci. 93:2626-2640. doi:10.2527/jas.2014-8787.
Watson, A. K., J. C. MacDonald, G. E. Erickson, P. J. Kononoff, and T. J. Klopfenstein. 2015. FORAGES AND PASTURES SYMPOSIUM: Optimizing the use of fibrous residues in beef and dairy diets. J. Anim. Sci. 93:2616-2625. doi:10.2527/jas2014-8780.