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An integrated approach to crop/livestock systems: Forage and grain production for swath grazing

An integrated approach to crop/livestock systems: Forage and grain production for swath grazing

Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 20(4): 223-231

Current agricultural systems are the result of decoupling crop/livestock enterprises for short-term economic gain at the expense of long-term sustainability. Objectives of our research were to determine the influences of winter grazing dry gestating beef cows on no-till forage and grain production, water-use efficiency, and protein and phosphorus (P) production for an oat/pea-triticale/sweet clover-corn 3-year cropping system. Oat/pea and triticale crops were harvested for grain, with the straw and chaff left in swaths after harvest for winter grazing. Drilled corn for forage was swathed in late September. Cropping system treatments were: (1) straw and corn chopped and left in place (IP); (2) straw and corn baled and removed without livestock (R); and (3) straw and corn swath grazed by livestock (L). The first winter for grazing dry, bred cows was in 1999-2000; therefore, no treatment differences occurred for the 1999 crop. In 2000, oat/pea and triticale grain and straw production for the IP treatment was about half of the production for the R treatment, because of low oat/pea and triticale plant stands on the IP treatment. Averaged over all years, corn was about 1.5 times more efficient in using water for dry matter production when compared to oat/pea or triticale. Generally, protein and P production, on a unit area basis, were highest for corn and lowest for triticale. Averaged over 4 years, about half of the nitrogen used for protein production was derived from sources other than applied commercial fertilizer. Data suggest that more than 4 years of research are needed to understand cropping system and animal interactions on forage and grain production in integrated crop/livestock systems, with trends in year four suggesting that livestock may enhance forage and grain production.

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Accession: 066193133

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DOI: 10.1079/RAF2005107

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