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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 98 No. 3, p. 705-713
     
    Received: Mar 16, 2005


    * Corresponding author(s): kim.cassida@ars.usda.gov
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doi:10.2134/agronj2005.0081

Alfalfa as an Alternative to Bermudagrass for Pastured Stocker Cattle Systems in the Southern USA

  1. K. A. Cassida *a,
  2. C. B. Stewartb,
  3. V. A. Habyc and
  4. S. A. Gunterb
  1. a USDA-ARS, Appalachian Farming Systems Research Center, 1224 Airport Rd., Beaver, WV, 25813
    b Southwest Res. and Ext. Center, Division of Agric., Univ. of Arkansas, 362 Hwy. 174 North, Hope, AR 71801
    c Texas Agric. Exp. Stn., Texas A&M Univ. System, P.O. Box 200, Overton, TX 75684

Abstract

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) may support better stocker calf gains than common bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylis (L.) Pers.] in the southern USA. Yearling heifers (Bos taurus × B. indicus) grazed each type of pasture for 2 yr on a Coastal Plain soil in southwest Arkansas. Alfalfa stand counts declined linearly with time after planting. Spring forage mass was greater for alfalfa than bermudagrass, but summer dormancy of alfalfa resulted in a summer forage mass advantage for bermudagrass. Bermudagrass provided a longer grazing season (115–168 d for bermudagrass vs. 66–156 d for alfalfa, P < 0.01), more animal grazing days (1040–1452 vs. 594–1221 d, P < 0.01), and fewer grazing interruptions than alfalfa. Average daily gain (ADG, 462 vs. 319 g d−1, P < 0.05) and total liveweight gain (664 vs. 447 kg ha−1, P < 0.05) were greater for alfalfa than bermudagrass in Year 2. In both years, heifers grazing alfalfa made the same amount of liveweight gain in less time than heifers grazing bermudagrass. The bermudagrass system had a negative net return across the trial period. Net return for the alfalfa system was dependent on the value of harvested hay. When alfalfa hay value reached $95 Mg−1 of dry matter (DM), net return was greater for the alfalfa system than for the bermudagrass system ($59 vs. $−148 ha−1, P < 0.05). On a Coastal Plain soil, renovation of common bermudagrass to alfalfa pasture can be economically feasible under a dual stocker/hay production system.

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