Performance and economic analyses of year-round forage systems for forage-fed beef production in the gulf coast

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© 2014 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved. On a global scale, most beef is produced from grazing pastures or rangelands. Certain limitations exist, however, such as not having adequate animal rates of gain for marbling and availability of adequate forage nutritional value and quantity for constant animal weight gains. In the last 20 yr, there has been an increased interest in forage-fed beef for multiple reasons (health related, environmental concerns, and welfare issues). Starting on June 5, 13, 14, and 8 in 4 consecutive yr, 54 steers (initial BW = 259 ± 5.6 kg; average of 9 mo of age) were randomly allotted to 3 yr-round forage systems. Each system occupied 6 ha/ replicate and had the same stocking rate. System 1 had annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) for winter grazing and bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) for summer grazing; while Systems 2 and 3 added rye and a clover mix to the ryegrass and diversified the use of pastures in the fall (dallisgrass [Paspalum dilatatum] and clovers [Trifolium spp.]). System 3 added the use of annual summer forages. During their respective growing season for each forage or forage mix, mass and height did not limit animal performance; however, there was a sampling date effect (P < 0.05) for nutritive value variables since it decreased as forages became mature. The ADG observed (0.44 kg) for all systems (P = 0.78) during summer was lower than expected and might have been limited by the observed temperature as well as forage nutritive value. Systems 1 and 2 had more grazing days (P = 0.03) during summer (155 and 146 d, respectively) compared to System 3 (132 d) due to the greater pasture area of bermudagrass in those systems. Steers in System 3 were fed more hay for a longer period of time (P < 0.05) than on the other 2 systems. System 1 and 2 produced more hay per hectare than System 3 (P < 0.05). No differences (P > 0.05) were detected between systems in ADG year round, during the winter season, or carcass characteristics. Return over total direct costs and total specified expenses were greater for Systems 1 and 2, while System 3 was the lowest. Hay making and bale sales played a major role in explaining the economic results of this study. Where possible, year-round forage systems are a viable alternative for forage-fed beef production; however, the low gains during summer and forage availability during the transition period when hay is necessary deserve further research to find alternatives to improve productivity during those times of the year.

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Journal of Animal Science

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