Animal Science Department
Production cow-calf responses from perennial forage-based and integrated beef-cropping systems
Date of this Version
Translational Animal Science, 2022, 6, 1–14
An experiment was conducted to measure production responses of an alternative cow-calf production system integrated into a cropping system without access to perennial forage compared to a traditional cow-calf system utilizing perennial forage. Multiparous, cross-bred beef cows (n = 160; average age = 6.2 ± 2.8 yr) were utilized in a randomized complete block experimental design and unstructured treatment design. Upon initiation, cows were blocked by age and stratified by source, assigned randomly to one of two production systems, each with four replicates (n = 20 cows/replicate). Once allotted to their treatment groups, cows remained in their experimental units for the duration of the experiment. Treatments were: 1) a traditional system consisting of April to May calving with smooth bromegrass pasture and grazed corn residue as forage resources (TRAD); 2) an alternative system consisting of July to August calving utilizing partial-drylot feeding, summer-planted oats, and corn residue grazing (ALT). There were no differences (P ≥ 0.27) in calving rates (91.8 vs. 86.7 ± 2.92%), pregnancy rates (89.3 vs. 89.9 ± 2.66%), and weaning rates (87.2 vs. 82.3 ± 3.29%) for TRAD vs. ALT, respectively. However, there was an increase (P = 0.04) in the rate of twin offspring in ALT (2.9 vs. 9.4 ± 2.36% for TRAD vs. ALT, respectively). One calf from the set of twins was selected randomly at birth to be removed from the experiment, so the production data are only from single calves. There was no difference (P = 0.47) in calf body weight at birth (40 vs. 39 ± 0.7 kg for TRAD vs. ALT, respectively). At weaning, calves in the ALT system were lighter (P < 0.01) at the same day of age (184 vs. 229 ± 5.5 kg) compared to TRAD calves. Cows from the ALT system had fewer (P < 0.01) kg weaned per cow exposed to bull (150 vs. 199 ± 7.2 kg) compared to TRAD cows. Apart from the twinning rate, no differences in reproductive performance were observed among systems. However, reduced weaning weights and kilogram of weaned calf per cow exposed may negatively impact revenue to the cow-calf enterprise of the ALT system.
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