Animal Science Department



A. K. Watson

Date of this Version



The Professional Animal Scientist 28 ( 2012 ):443–451


Copyright © 2012 American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists. Used by permission.


In recent years, prices for N fertilizer have increased dramatically, reducing net returns of fertilized pasture systems. A 5-yr study from 2005 to 2009 was conducted to evaluate management strategies and relative differences in profitability for 3 methods of backgrounding calves on smooth bromegrass pastures. Forty-five steers were used each year for a total of 225 animals in a randomized complete block design. Treatments included pastures fertilized in the spring with 90 kg N/ha (FERT), nonfertilized pastures with calves supplemented daily with dried distillers grains plus solubles (DDGS) at 0.6% of BW (SUPP), and control (CONT) pastures that had no fertilizer or supplementation applied. Pastures were rotationally stocked and put-and-take cattle were used to maintain similar grazing pressure on all treatments. Forage production was greatest for the FERT paddocks, intermediate for SUPP paddocks, and least for CONT paddocks (P < 0.01). Stocking rates were greater for SUPP pastures compared with nonfertilized pastures because of increased forage production and replacement of approximately 0.79 kg of forage for each 1 kg of supplement fed. At the conclusion of grazing, SUPP steers were 40 kg heavier than either the FERT or CONT steers, which resulted in increased gross revenue of $44.14/steer for the SUPP treatment (P < 0.01). Net returns were greatest for SUPP at $17.55/steer (P < 0.01), whereas both the CONT and FERT treatments had negative net returns of −$6.20 and −$8.71/steer, respectively. In the future, the relationship between prices for land, N fertilizer, and DDGS will affect the net returns of all 3 treatments.