Long Term Production on Marginal, Highly Erodible Lands

Paul Nyren, Director; Bob Patton, Range Scientist; and Brian Kreft, Livestock Specialist, NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center


 

Introduction

Materials and Methods

Results

Acknowledgements

 



Introduction


In 1992 the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center (CGREC) began researching the effects of grazing and haying CRP acreages in south-central North Dakota. The objectives of this study are to determine:

 

1.     The floristic composition and structure of CRP lands and to note changes in species composition due to long term grazing and haying.

2.     The production and utilization of CRP land vegetation under a season-long (SL) and a 3-pasture rotation twice-over (TOR) grazing system.

3.     The production and quality of hay from CRP lands.

4.     The economic returns from grazing and haying CRP lands.


Materials and Methods


In 1997, the original CRP project at CGREC was completed. The CRP task force which was set up to administer the original project decided that the cool season grasses seeded on most CRP contract lands were more suited to a complementary type of grazing system. A new CRP grazing project was developed which would use the original CRP grazing systems as the early season pastures in a complementary grazing system. The CRP grazing season was shortened by 50% and the number of animals increased to maintain a similar stocking rate to previous years. By shortening the grazing season, the cool season grasses on the CRP site are rested during late July and August. When the animals are removed from the CRP acreages in mid-July or early August, they are placed on native mixed-grass prairie for the remainder of the grazing season.


Three hundred and seventy acres of privately owned land located approximately 2 miles northwest of Streeter, North Dakota, are used for this study. Annual precipitation for this area averages 17.8 inches. Soils on the study area are a Barnes-Buse on 9% to 15% slopes. The site is classified as highly erodible land (HEL) by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This land was seeded in 1985 to a mixture of tall wheatgrass, intermediate wheatgrass, sweetclover and alfalfa. In 1992, the land was subdivided into a 135-acre season-long treatment and a 235-acre twice-over rotation grazing treatment. In 1998, the twice-over rotation system was changed to a 3-pasture rotation system in that the pastures were grazed once rather than twice. Ninety acres of CRP land adjacent to the grazing systems are cut for the hay crop each year. These acres were also seeded in 1985 to the same species used in the grazing study. Exclosures are set up on silty sites and are neither grazed nor hayed. These unused areas serve as a control treatment to which the grazed and hayed treatments are compared.


Results


The legumes and grasses on the CRP pastures had above average production in 2004 while the forbs were below the 7-year average (Tables 1 and 2). The production of the legumes on the ungrazed exclosures decreased by nearly 58%over the 7-year average. Utilization on the season-long treatment was slightly below the 7-year average of 43.0% at 41.2% while the twice-over at 57.5% was slightly above the 7-year average of 55%. Table 3 shows the livestock gains for the cows and calves on the season-long and twice-over pastures as well as the two treatments combined.


Table 1. Forage production on the CRP study pastures for the 2004 season in lbs/acre.

Treatment

Legume

Forb

Grass

Total

% Utilization

Season-long

443*

34

2364

2840

41.2

Twice-over

741

7

2950

3699

57.5

Ungrazed

151

93

3269

3513

 

*There were no significant differences between treatments for legumes, forbs and grasses in 2004.

 


Table 2. 7-year average forage production for the CRP pastures in lbs/acre.

Treatment

Legume

Forb

Grass

Total

% Utilization

Season-long

399 b

49 a

2182 b

2630 b

43.0 b

Twice-over

668 a

41 a

2623 a

3332 a

55.0 a

Ungrazed

358 b

99 a

2821 a

3278 a

 

Means in the same column followed by the same letter are not significantly different (P≤.05).

 


Table 3. Livestock performance on the Stutsman County CRP study 2004.

 

Initial Wt. (lbs) 5/26/2004

Final Wt. (lbs) 8/02/2004

Average Daily Gains lb/acre

Gains per acre (lbs)

Treatment

Animals

# of Animals

Cows

Calves

Cows

Calves

Cows

Calves

Calves

Season-Long

Heifers

29

1324

176

1455

335

1.92

2.34

34.2

Steers

21

1345

189

1448

372

1.51

2.70

28.6

All

50

1333

181

1452

351

1.74

2.49

62.7

Twice-over

Heifers

51

1352

186

1433

353

1.19

2.45

36.2

Steers

46

1353

198

1438

385

1.24

2.75

36.6

All

97

1354

192

1437

368

1.22

2.59

72.7

Combined

Heifers

80

1342

182

1441

346

1.44

2.41

35.3

Steers

67

1351

195

1441

381

1.33

2.73

33.6

All

147

1347

188

1442

362

1.39

2.55

68.9


This was a good year for both the forage production and livestock performance. The cows on the season-long pastures gained somewhat better than on the twice-over at 1.74 lbs/hd/day and 1.22 lbs/hd/day, respectively. The steer calves gained nearly the same on both treatments at 2.70 lbs/hd/day and 2.75 lbs/hd/day on the season-long and twice-over rotation, respectively. The heifers on the twice-over rotation treatment gained 2.45 lbs/hd/day while on the season-long pastures they gained 2.34 lbs/hd/day. Calf gains per acre for the season-long pastures was 62.7 lbs/acre for the 68 day season while the twice-over rotation pastures produced 72.7 lbs/acre. The CGREC has received a SARE grant to develop a model ranch utilizing the best management practices of years of research at the center as well as NDSU. The CRP pastures will be used in 2005 for a portion of this project.


Acknowledgements


The long-term project on marginal highly erodible lands described above is supported in part by a cooperative agreement with the US Farm Services Administration and Otto and Lea Dewald, Streeter, ND.

 



NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center

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