Study: Midwestern beef production works just as well off pasture

Study: Midwestern beef production works just as well off pasture


Beef producers within the higher Midwest know grazing land is briefly provide. With extra acres being developed or transformed to cropland, producers who wish to increase their cow-calf operations are on the lookout for options to conventional pasture administration. New analysis from University of Illinois animal scientists and I-BELIEF college students reveals cow-calf pairs could be managed in drylots all through the summer season grazing interval with few destructive penalties.

“When we extended the drylot phase throughout the summer, we were able to get excellent performance on our drylot cows. They maintained body weight and body condition and had good reproductive rates. Everything was excellent in that regard. Calves on the drylot had increased performance throughout the pre-weaning phase, as well,” says Dan Shike, affiliate professor within the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I and lead researcher on the examine.

The workforce in contrast Angus/Simmental cow-calf pairs on pasture and in drylots — on this case, concrete heaps and open-front sheds with bedding — between May and August, repeated over two years. Broadly, they checked out development efficiency, lactation, locomotion, and calf conduct at weaning and throughout the feedlot receiving interval.

“Producers who want to explore drylotting have a lot of questions, so we tried to tackle as many of the big-picture answers as we could,” Shike says.

In the drylot, cows have been limit-fed a normal TMR upkeep weight loss plan, however calves had free entry to the identical weight loss plan in an adjoining creep pen. Pairs on pasture grazed out there forage, with calves nursing and consuming a processed creep feed three weeks previous to weaning.

The analysis workforce anticipated cows and calves to do as well or higher within the drylot, and that’s just what they discovered.

“The cows in the drylot performed exactly as we intended because we had more control over their environment and were able to formulate a ration to meet their nutritional needs. The cows in the pasture are really at the mercy of the weather,” Shike says. “Consequently, the cows on pasture had lower body weight and body condition score compared to cows in the drylot.”

Loren Kerns, Flickr

Calves did higher within the drylot than pasture, once more due to the managed weight loss plan and atmosphere. When it was time for weaning and cargo to the feedlot, pasture-raised calves have been considerably smaller than their drylot-raised counterparts.

“We anticipated the pasture-raised calves would have compensatory gain, and they did. They had higher rates of gain and tended to be more efficient in that receiving phase,” Shike says. “But, even after 42 days, they hadn’t caught up because they started so far behind the drylot calves in weight.”

Pasture-raised calves have been introduced into the drylot for weaning, the place that they had nose-to-nose entry to their moms in adjoining pens. Calves raised within the drylot stayed in place, however have been separated from their moms by a fence. Drylot calves appeared considerably much less pressured at this section, in response to behavioral indicators together with vocalization, consuming, strolling, and mendacity down.

After six days of weaning, calves have been transported 170 miles from the Orr Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center in Baylis to the U of I campus farms to start the feedlot section. Surprisingly, pasture-raised calves confirmed fewer indicators of stress throughout feedlot receiving than their drylot-raised counterparts.

“We were thinking if they’re in a drylot, they’re already used to an intensive system. Maybe that will help them transition to another intensive system like the feedlot. But it didn’t give them an advantage. That was probably one of our more surprising findings,” says Josh McCann, assistant professor in animal sciences and co-author on the examine.

“We think calves on pasture may have adapted faster to the feedlot because they had already gone through one transition — from the pasture to pen at weaning — and because being on pasture gives them more physical separation from their moms. We could imagine they were more mentally prepared to be separated when shipped to the feedlot. For the drylot pairs, it’s like when your kids stay home with you all day, sending them off to school becomes a little more stressful at first.”

The researchers say producers ought to contemplate a couple of potential dangers related to drylotting. In the examine, they discovered the next incidence of foot and leg points, together with lameness and issues with locomotion.

Shike says, “The dairy industry certainly experienced more issues with feet and legs as they intensified and moved cows into confinement. The beef industry will have to pay attention to this issue as well, but there are things we can do in terms of how we manage bedding and drainage. Even though we had to treat some cows, it ultimately didn’t impact body weight, body condition, or reproduction. There was some labor and expense associated with treating them, though.”

Although the workforce didn’t conduct an financial evaluation, McCann notes the price of treating locomotion points isn’t the one expense to think about.

“An intensive system requires more labor and, of course, there’s the cost of feed,” he says. “There wasn’t much of a downside to the drylot system for animal performance, but producers will want to look at the economic tradeoffs for their individual operations.”

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