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Wintering Calves and Stockers on Stockpiled Bermudagrass

Posted Jun. 1, 1997

The Controlled-Rotation Grazing Unit at the Pasture Demonstration Farm has many facets and alternative techniques of forage and beef cattle management. The unit is somewhat stable in management approach, but we do adjust and/or add to it occasionally.

During the 1996-97 winter, we elected to retain ownership of our weaned calves and to purchase additional stocker steers (bulls) to add to the herd. We wintered them all on stockpiled bermudagrass. We calculated that we had surplus bermudagrass for the yearlong cow herd and we wanted to use some of it to produce more saleable beef from retained calves and purchased stocker cattle. All of these cattle grazed the stockpiled bermudagrass until they reached a saleable weight or until they were moved to our overseeded rye pasture for more weight gain. From October 22 to the end of winter they were fed 38% crude protein cubes with Bovatec.

The cattle were fed the cubes five days per week at an overall average of 1.44 pounds per head per day at a cost of $0.135 per day. During early feeding, when grass quality was at its best, 1.00 pounds per head per day was the feeding rate. That rate went as high as 2.25 pounds per head per day during March's wet, cold weather when the steers' performance seemed visually to wane a bit. We judge that grass cost was about $0.14 per head per day based on direct production costs for fertilizer, for a total feed cost of about $0.28 per day plus mineral, land, etc.

The retained ownership calves lost 1.26 pounds per day the first week post-weaning. The next three weeks they were split into two herds and grazed either lush bermudagrass regrowth with lush young crabgrass and other grasses intermixed, or a mature drying crabgrass pasture. In that period, average daily gains (ADG) were 2.57 pounds from lush bermudagrass-crabgrass mixture and 1.82 pounds from mature crabgrass. Overall ADG from weaning date to sale (off of stockpiled bermudagrass or to transfer to rye winter pasture) was 0.95 pounds.

Some of the retained ownership calves were sold off of stockpiled bermudagrass. The remainder were transferred to rye pasture for 66 more days of grazing. The calves had an ADG of 2.71 pounds on rye pasture and an overall ADG of 1.45 from weaning to the end of rye pasture. The technique afforded a realistic means of carrying the weaned calves over to capture more weight gain and profit on bermudagrass and rye pasture. This year's price appreciation, from fall to winter or spring, made this technique even more profitable.

The October purchased steers (bulls) had ADG's of 0.94 pounds for 88 days on stockpiled bermudagrass and the same feeding of 38% cubes. They then gained 2.24 pounds per day on overseeded rye pasture the next 102 days for an overall ADG of 1.62 pounds for 190 days on pasture. This is without shrink.

Historically, the leafy portion of our stockpiled bermudagrass averages 10% to 12% crude protein. We assume it was similar this last winter. We judge the steers consumed about 1.5% of bodyweight on bermudagrass forage based upon trials in the past on cow intake of this type of forage.

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