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This article in CS

  1. Vol. 51 No. 2, p. 892-901
     
    Received: Apr 19, 2010
    Published: Mar, 2011


    * Corresponding author(s): oates@wisc.edu
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doi:10.2135/cropsci2010.04.0216

Management-Intensive Rotational Grazing Enhances Forage Production and Quality of Subhumid Cool-Season Pastures

  1. Lawrence G. Oates *a,
  2. Daniel J. Undersanderb,
  3. Claudio Grattonc,
  4. Michael M. Bellc and
  5. Randall D. Jacksonc
  1. a Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, 550 N. Park St., Madison, WI 53706
    b Dep. of Agronomy, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, 1575 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706
    c Agroecology Cluster, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, 139A King Hall, 1525 Observatory Dr., Madison, WI 53706

Abstract

Management-intensive rotational grazing is used by many farmers seeking to balance profitability, environmental stewardship, and quality of life. Productivity of pastures in much of the upper Midwest is limited to April through October, so promoting high quality forage production during the grazing season and for winter storage is critical to dairy and beef farm profitability. We conducted an experiment on pastures dominated by Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.), orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.), meadow fescue [Schedonorus pratensis (Huds.) P. Beauv.], perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.), and white clover (Trifolium repens L.) to compare forage production, forage quality, and root production under management-intensive rotational grazing, continuous grazing, haymaking, and land with no agronomic management. Rotational paddocks were grazed by cow-calf pairs monthly for ∼2 d and then allowed to rest for ∼28 d. Plots designated for haymaking were harvested two times per growing season. Potential utilizable forage, quantified by incorporating the estimates of refused and nonutilized biomass, and relative forage quality were significantly greater under management-intensive rotational grazing when compared to the other treatments. Root production in the surface 15 cm was significantly lower under both grazing treatments compared to the undefoliated control site. The perception of improved production has been used to advocate for rotationally grazed over continuously grazed systems in subhumid pasture, but experimental results have been equivocal. Our results point to managed grazing as a viable alternative to continuous grazing and haymaking in terms of both forage production and quality but not root production.

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