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Study Looks at Effect of Forage Source on Backgrounding

Posted Dec. 1, 2006

Fertilization of bermudagrass pasture during late summer has the potential to reduce input costs and improve animal performance when stocker calves are purchased during late summer and backgrounded until winter pasture is available.

Six-hundred nineteen beef steers were purchased during August, processed and backgrounded for a 30-day period before being assigned to one of four treatment combinations. Forage sources were bermudagrass hay and stockpiled bermudagrass forage. Levels of supplement included 4 pounds per head per day of a 14 percent protein supplement compared to no supplement. Average initial forage availability in mid-September ranged from 4,850 to 7,555 pounds per acre.

Stockpiled bermudagrass nutritive value was generally higher during the early part of the grazing period and declined through the fall months. Consequently, steers grazing stockpiled bermudagrass forage gained at a faster rate during the early part of the grazing period compared to steers consuming hay. However, forage source did not influence weight gains later in the study or overall (Figure 1).

Supplementation resulted in a significant improvement in weight gain during each weigh period and overall, regardless of forage source. Supplemented cattle gained an average of 0.74 pounds more per day compared to non-supplemented cattle (Figure 2). Stockpiled bermudagrass is a viable alternative to feeding hay to steers after weaning or receiving and prior to winter grazing. Source: Coffey, Lalman and Childs; 2006 OSU Animal Science Research Report.