Integration of Year-round Forage Management Systems for Spring-calving and Fall-calving Beef Cows (A Progress Report)
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Animal production, hay production and feeding, winter forage composition changes, and summer pasture yields and nutrient composition of a year-round grazing system for spring-calving and fall-calving cows were compared to those of a conventional, minimal land system. Cows in the year-round and minimal land systems grazed forage from smooth bromegrassorchardgrass-birdsfoot trefoil (SB-O-T) pastures at 1.67 and 3.33 acres, respectively, per cow in the summer. During the summer, SB-O-T pastures in the year-round grazing system also were grazed by stockers at 1.67 stockers per acre, and spring-calving and fall-calving cows grazed smooth bromegrass–red clover (SB-RC) and endophyte-free tall fescue–red clover (TF-RC) at 2.5 acres per cow for approximately 45 days in midsummer. In the year-round grazing system, spring-calving cows grazed corn crop residues at 2.5 acres per cow and stockpiled SB-RC pastures at 2.5 acres per cow; fallcalving cows grazed stockpiled TF-RC pastures at 2.5 acres per cow during winter. In the minimal land system, in winter, cows were maintained in a drylot on first-cutting hay harvested from 62.5–75% of the pasture acres during summer. Hay was fed to maintain a body condition score of 5 on a 9-point scale for springcalving cows in both systems and a body condition score of 3 for fall-calving cows in the year-round system. Over 3 years, mean body weights of fall-calving cows in the year-round system did not differ from the body weights of spring-calving cows in either system, but fall-calving cows had higher (P < .05) body condition scores compared to spring-calving cows in either system. There were no differences among all groups of cows in body condition score changes over the winter grazing season (P > .05). During the summer grazing season, fall-calving cows in the year- round system and springcalving cows in the minimal land system gained more body condition and more weight (P < .05) than springcalving cows in the year-round grazing system. Fall calves in the year-round system had higher birth weights, lower weaning weights, and lower average preweaning daily gains compared to either group of spring calves (P < .05). However, there were no significant differences for birth weights, weaning weights, or average pre-weaning daily gains between spring calves in either system over the 3-year experiment (P > .05). The amount of total growing animal production (calves and stockers) per acre for each system did not differ in any year (P > .05). Over the 3-year experiment, 1.9 ton more hay was fed per cow and 1 ton more hay was fed per cow–calf pair in the minimal land system compared to the year-round grazing system (P < .05).