Evaluation of a Year-Round Grazing System: Winter Progress Report
The winter component of a year-round grazing system involving grazing of corn crop residues followed by grazing stockpiled grass-legume forages was compared at the McNay Research Farm with that of the winter component of a minimal land system that maintained cows in drylot. In the summers of 1995 and 1996, two and one cuttings of hay per year were harvested from two 15-acre fields containing “Johnston” low endophtye tall fescue and red clover. Two cuttings of hay in 1995 and one cutting in 1996 were harvested from two 15-acre fields of smooth bromegrass and red clover. Hay yields were 4,236 and 4,600 pounds of dry matter per acre for the tall fescue-red clover in 1995 and 1996, and 2,239 and 2,300 pounds of dry matter per acre for the smooth bromegrass-red clover in 1995 and 1996. Following grain harvest, four 7.5-acre fields containing corn crop residues were stocked with cows at midgestation at an allowance of 1.5 acres per cow. Forage yields at the initiation of corn crop grazing in 1995 and 1996 were 3,757 and 3,551 pounds of dry matter per acre for corn crop residues. Stockpiled forage yields were 1,748 and 2,912 pounds of dry matter for tall fescue-red clover and 1,880 and 2,187 pounds for smooth bromegrass-red clover. Corn crop residues and stockpiled forages were grazed in a strip stocking system. For comparison, 20 cows in 1995 and 16 cows in 1996 were placed in two drylots simultaneously with initiation of corn crop grazing, where they remained throughout the winter and spring grazing periods. Cows maintained in drylots or grazing corn crop residue and stockpiled forages were supplemented with hay as large round bales to maintain a body condition score of five. In both years, no seasonal differences in body weight and body condition score were observed between grazing cows or cows maintained in drylots, but grazing cows required 85% and 98% less harvested hay in years 1 and 2 than cows in drylot during the winter and spring. Because less hay was needed to maintain grazing cows, excesses of 12,354 and 5,244 pounds of hay dry matter per cow in 1995 and 1996 remained in the year-round grazing system. During corn crop grazing, organic matter yield decreased at 23.5 and 28.8 pounds of organic matter per day from grazed areas of corn crop residues in 1995 and 1996. Organic matter losses due to weathering were 6.8, 10.3, and 12.7 pounds per day in corn crop residue, tall fescue-red clover and smooth bromegrass-red clover in 1995 and 12.1, 10.7, and 12.1 in 1996. Organic matter losses from grazed and ungrazed areas of tall fescue-red clover and smooth bromegrass-red clover during stockpiled grazing were 6.9, 6.9, and 2.1, 2.9 in 1995 and 13.4, 4.3, and +6.9, 4.4 pounds per day in 1996.