Biologically effective management of grazing land increases productivity and profits

News
Sep 24, 2010
by WLJ

Beef producers in the northern Plains have transformed old-style, low-performance cattle into high-performance, fast-growing meat animals with improved genetic potential and increased nutrient demands. These modern, high-performance cattle are larger and heavier, gain weight more rapidly, produce more milk, and deposit less fat on their bodies than old-style cattle.

“However, the beef production industry has not improved the efficiency of forage feed management systems for brood cows,” says Lee Manske, North Dakota State University Dickinson Research Extension Center (REC) range scientist. “Beef producers chronically use traditionaltype forage management practices. These practices are based on the cost of forage dry matter and use the same basic concepts and technology developed by their forefathers to provide forage feed for their genetically improved cattle that have increased nutrient requirements.”

On average, modern cattle are 20 percent heavier than the old-style. However, the energy requirements have increased 27 to 43 percent and the crude protein requirements have increased 41 to 72 percent. The forages provided by traditionaltype forage management practices are deficient at meeting the crude protein requirements of modern cattle for 41 to 82 percent of the days of the year.

Modern, high-performance cattle do not produce at their genetic potentials when their nutrient requirements are not met.

The same holds true for perennial grass and rhizosphere microorganisms in grasslands when those biological requirements are not met.

“The asymmetrical mismatch between the quantity of forage nutrients required by modern, high-performance cows and the quantity of forage nutrients provided from traditional forage management practices perpetuates the problems,” Manske says.

Scientific discoveries have provided the knowledge for understanding the complex symbiotic partnership among perennial grass plants, rhizosphere microorganisms and large grazing animals. These scientific discoveries explain how the associated physiological mechanisms and biogeochemical processes accelerate the growth rates of replacement leaves and stems, increase photosynthetic capacity, increase carbon and nitrogen mobilization and allocation, increase the development of vegetative tillers from auxiliary buds, and increase the quantity of soil organic nitrogen converted into available mineral nitrogen.

“This assemblage of defoliation-resistance mechanisms can be stimulated advantageously by grazing livestock when the management is specifically designed to meet the biological requirements of the grass plants and rhizosphere organisms,” Manske says.

“The full activation of these mechanisms can transform low-producing grasslands into high-performance functional ecosystems with elevated quantities of forage nutrients. This permits modern, high-performance cattle to produce at their genetic potential, resulting in reduced forage production costs and increased net returns after feed costs.”

The insight into how grazingland ecosystems function gained from these scientific discoveries has been used to develop biologically effective forage management strategies. A workshop to train ranchers and land managers on how grass plants, rhizosphere organisms and ecosystem biogeochemical processes are benefitted by grazing livestock will be offered Jan. 4-6, 2011, at the Dickinson REC red office building. The building is on the corner of State Avenue and Empire Road in Dickinson, ND.

Each workshop participant will learn how to develop and properly operate a biologically effective management system with twiceover rotation grazing on summer pastures in conjunction with a complete 12-month complementary pasture and harvested forage sequence specific to his or her ranch.

These science-based management strategies meet the nutrient requirements of livestock during each production period, meet the biological requirements of grass plants and rhizosphere organisms, increase the quantity of forage nutrients produced, improve the efficiency of forage nutrient capture, and improve the efficiency for the conversion of forage nutrients into saleable animal weight.

The implementation of biologically effective 12month management strategies will generate greater wealth from the land’s natural resources without hurting future production.

For workshop information, call Manske at 701/483- 2348, ext. 118, or e-mail llewellyn.manske@ndsu. edu. Information related to the workshop material is available at www.Grazing Handbook.com. — WLJ

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