Mary E. Drewnoski
Karla H. Wilke
Date of this Version
Grabau, Morgan, 2021. Evaluation of Cattle Management for Systems with Limited Perennial Pasture. M.S. thesis, December, 2021.
Due to the conversion of perennial pasture and hay land to cropland in the western corn belt region, alternative methods of cow/calf management are being used to decrease reliance on perennial forages. These include grazing corn residue and feeding cow/calf pairs in confinement. Previous research has shown that limit-feeding a diet of low-quality forage and energy-dense co-products to cows in confinement is cost-effective. However, this strategy may limit the intake of the young calf and thus their performance. A study was conducted to evaluate the impacts of two alternative calf management strategies when pairs are in confinement, early weaning or creep feeding. The results suggest that providing a separate creep diet containing higher quality forage to the calf is a cost-effective option as opposed to keeping cows and calves as pairs providing the limit-fed diet containing low-quality forage, or weaning calves early and feeding the cow and calf separately. Winter grazing of corn residue is a common practice, whereas grazing into spring is rare due to concerns about soil compaction and negative effects on subsequent crop yield. A study was conducted to evaluate the impacts of spring grazing and stocking density when targeting a grazing rate of consumption of 50% of the leaf and husk. The results suggest that grazing in the spring when the soil is thawed and wet results in negligible compaction. Increased stocking density in the spring when grazing corn residue does increase surface roughness and soil penetration resistance, but these effects were minimal. In fact, subsequent soybean yield was increased in a high-yielding irrigated field due to grazing at both a normal and high stocking density in the spring. Combining confinement of cows with grazing residue may be a solution to maintain cow herds without utilizing perennial forages.
Advisors: Mary E. Drewnoski and Karla H. Wilke