Early-season grazing of native grasses offers potential profitable benefit
Rushing, J.B.; Maples, J.G.; Rivera, J.D.; Lyles, J.C.
Agronomy Journal 112(2): 1057-1067
ISSN/ISBN: 0002-1962 DOI: 10.1002/agj2.20130
A grazing trial was conducted in Mississippi during 2016 and 2017 to compare pasture, animal, and economic performance of three perennial, warm-season grass systems. Grass treatments included: (i) Argentine bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum Fluegge; BAH); (ii) KY Ecotype big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman; BBS); and (iii), KY Ecotype indiangrass [Sorghastrum nutans (L.) Nash], big bluestem and little bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash; MIX]. Paddocks were continuously stocked using weaned beef (Bos taurus) steers across three grazing intervals (I, II, and III) during late spring and summer. Pasture measurements included forage mass (FM) and nutritive value. Greatest FM was observed during grazing interval II in 2016 (931.70 kg ha(-1)). Nutritive values declined as the season progressed. The BAH had greater CP and TDN, and lower ADF and NDF concentrations than BBS and MIX in 2016. Differences were not as discernable in 2017. Greatest ADG were observed for BBS interval I in 2017 (1.34 kg d(-1)), MIX interval I 2017 (1.21 kg d(-1)), and BBS interval I 2016 (1.19 kg d(-1)). Beef yield per hectare (GAIN) was greatest for interval I across both years (464.78 kg ha-1). By species, GAIN was greatest for BBS in interval I (451.32 kg ha(-1)). For economic analysis, BBS had the lowest total annual pasture cost (US$142.65 ha(-1)), and had the greatest NET returns for 2016 ($268.96 ha(-1)) and 2017 ($249.98 ha(-1)). Implementing native warm-season grasses (NWSG) in stocker cattle systems for early-season grazing can be productive in Mississippi.