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Precision Management Techniques for Forage Production Systems. By Andy Clifford. The Value of Forage. In Oklahoma, excluding livestock, hay is the second most valuable crop, behind winter wheat.

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Precision management techniques for forage production systems l.jpg

Precision Management Techniques for Forage Production Systems

By Andy Clifford

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The Value of Forage

  • In Oklahoma, excluding livestock, hay is the second most valuable crop, behind winter wheat.

  • Hay has a value of 302 million dollars annually just in the state of Oklahoma, wheat has a value of 386 million dollars.

  • There was 625,000 tons of silage cut in the year 2000 in Oklahoma.

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The Value of Forage cont’d.

  • Livestock

    • Cattle, sheep, horses, and goats all spend the majority of their life on some type of pasture.

    • The 5.4 million head of cattle in Oklahoma account for 1.57 billion dollars added to the economy annually.

    • 300,000 horses and 55,000 sheep.

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Pasture in Oklahoma

  • 27 million acres of Oklahoma is planted or used as some type of pasture

    • 44,020,480 acres in Oklahoma.

  • 61% of the surface area of Oklahoma is in some type of permanent or temporary pasture.

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    Grain and Fiber Crops

    • Production mainly focused on the production of seed or fiber associated with the seed.

    • Harvest does not usually occur until the plant has reached maturity.

    • Production aimed towards producing the most seed rather than the most green forage.

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    Forage Crops

    • Production mainly aimed towards the production of high quality green forage per unit of land area.

    • Harvest occurs over a longer period before and after the plant reaches maturity.

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    Traditional Forage Systems

    • Continuous Livestock Grazing

    • Hay Production

    • Greenchop Forage and Drylot Systems

    • Silage Production

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    Methods for increasing productivity or profitability through additional management

    • Decrease production costs and inputs

    • Increase total volume of forage produced

    • Increase quality of forage produced

    • Increase overall value of forage produced

    • Increased forage harvest efficiency

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    Precision Management

    • Nutrient Management

      • Soil Testing

        • Grid soil sampling

      • Sensor based nutrient mgmt.

    • Water Management

      • Natural Rainfall

      • Irrigation

    • MIG

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    What is MIG?

    • The use of additional management to improve profitability or sustainability of a livestock and forage operation.

    • Most often a combination of rotational grazing, improved forages, irrigation, and other types of intensive management techniques.

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    Forage Quantity and Quality

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    Rotational Grazing Systems

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    Stocking Rates

    • The number of animals placed in a paddock is determined by several factors related to the livestock and to the forage.

      • Weather and other environmental conditions

      • Forage

        • Quality

        • Quantity

        • Species

      • Livestock

        • Species

        • Age

        • Size

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    How stocking rates are determined

    • Stocking rates are usually determined based on the measure known as Animal Units (A.U.) or AUE.

      • One Animal Unit requires 26 pounds of dry matter per day.

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    Calculating AUE

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    Forage quality and quantity

    • Animal units are usually based just on the quantity of forage.

    • Could stocking rates be more accurately set if the quality of the forage was also taken into consideration?

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    Nutrient requirements of livestock.

    • Livestock’s nutrient requirements are less as they grow older.

      • Young calves require higher quality forage than older steers or heifers.

      • Yearling cattle require higher nutrient levels than mature stock cows.

      • Etc.

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    Determining forage availability.

    • Most common method is based on a combination of “eyeball” estimates and local averages.

    • A more accurate and precise method is a forage inventory.

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    Forage inventory

    What is a forage inventory?

    • An enclosure such as a quadrant or hula hoop of known dimensions is placed in a representative area of a field.

    • The forage from within the enclosure is clipped and sorted based on species and desirability of the forage.

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    Forage Inventory cont’d

    • The desirable forages are weighed and measure for quality.

    • This measure is taken in several other locations within the paddock or pasture to obtain a representative sample.

    • A stocking rate can be established based on these measurements.

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    • More precise and accurate stocking rates can be established.

    • Forage availability is known and there will be less of a need for purchased feed.

    • Prevents over- or underutilization of forage.

    • Reduces Spatial variability in paddocks or pastures.

    • Maintains ideal species balance in pastures.

    • Environmental benefits.

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    • Requires more time and management.

    • Requires more labor.

    • Additional knowledge of forage species, plant physiology and nutrient management is required.

    • Can create severe problems if producer neglects the system for extended periods.

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    Cattleman, grassfarmer, or Both?

    • Most ranchers view themselves as caretakers of livestock.

    • A more profitable approach might be to view yourself as a grassfarmer who utilizes livestock to harvest his forage.

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    Tools which might be useful if developed.

    • Sensors

      • On the go fertilizer applicators which use sensors.

      • A sensor which can provide an accurate quantitative and qualitative measure available forage in a paddock or pasture.

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    • Oregon State University,Management Intensive Grazing Page

    • Gerrish, J.R., Basic Concepts of Management Intensive Grazing, Iowa State University Extention service, Beef Cattle Handbook,

    • Rollins, Dale, Determining Native Range Stocking Rates, Oklahoma Sate University Extension service. Pub. # F-2855

    • Oklahoma Agricultural Statistics Service.

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