With a dry winter shaping up for the southern half of the country, this might be a good time to dust off a technology that could increase winter forage supplies 10-30%.
Controlled or rotation grazing on small-grains pasture was well researched in the 1980s and early 1990s and showed increases in overall forage yield and pounds of beef produced per acre, without sacrificing average daily gain.
With the outlook for moisture in the South so grim, Beef Producer called up our old friend, R.L. Dalrymple, who did much of this research and who gathered a considerable amount of literature from others on the topic.
We asked Dalrymple if it's reasonable these numerical improvements could be applied to all winter forages in southern climes, such as fescue and other perennial forages. He said that is a reasonable assumption.
The conservative estimate of how controlled, rotation grazing helps extend wheat pasture and other small-grains pasture by 10-30% comes from a paper Dalrymple wrote in 1984 reviewing data from the Noble Foundation, where he was employed, Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M University, Mississippi State University, and more.
In that paper he found pounds of beef per acre and grazing days per acre increase 11-12% with rotation. He also found carrying capacity increased 8-15%.
In fact, a 1993-1996 demonstration project by Dalrymple and two coworkers at the Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma, found a 35% increase in pounds beef per acre with controlled, rotation grazing over continuous stocking. Average daily gain in this study was essentially the same, but profit for the rotationally grazed acres was significantly higher.
In this later study both systems were managed so the cattle were never deficient in forage, the literature reported. The report added, "All management decisions were made on the basis of daily and long-term forage, stock and soil interface considerations and not by the calendar."
The Noble Foundation study was done in years with good moisture and adequate forage. In tough years, the added forage obviously won't be as much, Dalrymple noted, but it still matters.
To read that paper by Dalrymple click the link below.
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