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This article in CS

  1. Vol. 52 No. 3, p. 1424-1429
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    Received: Aug 25, 2011


    * Corresponding author(s): tjbutler@noble.org
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doi:10.2135/cropsci2011.08.0453

Production and Economics of Grazing Alfalfa in the Southern Great Plains

  1. Twain J. Butler *a,
  2. Jon T. Biermachera,
  3. Sindy M. Interrantea,
  4. Mary K. Sledgeb,
  5. Andrew A. Hopkinsc and
  6. Joseph H. Boutona
  1. a The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, 2510 Sam Noble Parkway, Ardmore, OK 73401
    b Lipscomb Univ., One University Park Dr., Nashville, TN 37204
    c Dow AgroSciences 1117 Recharge Rd., York, NE 68467

Abstract

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) is a high-quality forage legume that may have potential to improve net returns to stocker cattle producers in the southern Great Plains. The objective of this 3-yr field study was to compare the agronomic and economic performance of alfalfa grazing systems under two management strategies. Treatments were (i) continuous stocking for the entire growing season, referred to as full-season grazing; and (ii) a late-season rest, which was continuous stocking of alfalfa until 1 August. Steers (250 ± 25 kg initial body weight) were weighed every 28 d during each grazing season, and stocking rates were adjusted with put-and-take steers based on forage mass. In each 28-d grazing period, forage mass and total gain (TG) were measured, allowing calculation of average daily gain (ADG). Animals had ADG of 0.93 and 1.05 kg d−1 and TG of 449 and 379 kg ha−1 on alfalfa for the full-season grazing treatment and the late-season rest (August termination), respectively. The 3-yr average production cost ($278 ha−1) did not differ between the two management treatments; however, expected net return was greater (P < 0.01) for the full-season alfalfa grazing treatment ($314 ha−1) compared to the 1 August termination date ($145 ha−1). Therefore, a late-season rest from grazing was not economically beneficial to grazing alfalfa in this 3-yr experiment, and grazing alfalfa with summer stockers may be a viable option for producers in the southern Great Plains.

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