Forage production and the utilization thereof is a major economic industry in our region. With 1.2 million head of cattle utilizing forages within a 100-mile radius of Ardmore, Oklahoma, there is significant potential to increase the economic returns from these forages by improving the quantity and quality of existing forages, learning how to more efficiently utilize forages, scrutinizing the cost of production of each forage enterprise, and developing alternative forage systems.
In general, we intensively use rotation grazing and fertilization as a means to maintain optimum forage quantity and quality at the Noble Research Institute Pasture Demonstration Farm (PDF). Pastures are grazed in such a manner that we leave behind enough forage so the plants have the ability to rapidly regrow if conditions are right. By doing this, cattle are typically grazing the most nutritious part of the plant which helps to maintain their body condition.
One of the principle enterprises at PDF is the winter pasture/stocker unit. The primary forages we use for winter pasture are rye and ryegrass; however, the cost to produce early winter pasture can be as high as $100.00 per acre. We are currently investigating different establishment techniques in order to optimize our cost of production. The production techniques being studied include:
- Conventional tillage + roll and drill
- Reduced tillage + roll and drill
- Chemical fallow + no-till drill
- Chemical setback of bermudagrass + sod-drill
Due to the high cost of winter pasture, there is also much interest in cool season perennial pastures in order to reduce many expenses while maintaining productivity. We are currently looking at the feasibility of establishing and maintaining a variety of coolseason perennial grasses.
Another demonstration where we are attempting to determine the cost of production is by comparing the use of ammonium nitrate as a source of nitrogen for bermudagrass with the use of legumes as a source of nitrogen for bermudagrass. The legumes currently being used for this project include hairy vetch and/or singletary pea. They are planted in mid October and allowed to grow through mid May when they are grazed. Bermudagrass production is being measured by livestock grazing days.
Our goal with all of these projects is to develop insight toward optimizing production rather than maximizing production.