Sustainable Systems Phase II
Beginning in 2002, a second phase of this research began, with funding by SARE and other sources, that added two additional systems located adjacent to the original research. These systems, replicated 3 times in a randomized block design, include about 100 acres. System 3, a non-irrigated three-paddock system, uses a base pasture of perennial native grasses including buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides), bluegrama (Bouteloua gracilis), and sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula). In paddocks 2 and 3, foxtail millet (Seteria italica), a warm season annual grass, grown for supplemental grazing and weed suppression, is rotated each year with cotton. Steers graze native grasses followed by graze-out of millet in late summer before moving to the feedyard for finishing.
System 4 is an irrigated three-paddock system that uses improved introduced perennial warm-season grasses. Dahl old world bluestem is in the base pasture with >Tifton-85' bermudagrass in paddocks 2 and 3. Steers graze stockpiled Dahl bluestem and bermudagrass during winter. As spring growth begins, bluestem provides grazing before bermudagrass and steers sequentially graze these forages. Excess growth of bermudagrass is harvested for hay. Seed are harvested from bluestem each fall. System 4 is irrigated and monitored for total water applied as described for Phase I of this research.
This research area required fencing, establishment by conversion of a long-time cotton monoculture area into the forage and cropping systems, and installation of the irrigation system for System 4. The dryland system was completed in 2004 and cattle began grazing in May, 2004. Establishment of the perennial pastures in System 4 was completed during 2004 and cattle began grazing this system in spring 2005. All fertility and other management practices are as described for Phase I except that fertilizers applied to the dryland system are surface applied.
For all paddocks in all systems where cattle graze, cages are permanently located within each paddock to exclude grazing and animal impact. These areas are managed in all other ways as the overall paddock such that the impact of grazing vs. no grazing can be determined.
The overall objective was to develop environmentally sustainable and economically feasible forage/beef cattle systems that will assure the viability of agricultural activities in the Texas High Plains while protecting its natural resources and putting this knowledge into practice.
Specific Objectives for Phase II:
- To compare the productivity, profitability, input requirements, and impact on natural resources of three replicated, field-scale forage systems for stocker steers with our existing comparisons of a cotton monoculture and an integrated cotton/forage/livestock system.
- To disseminate information and provide educational opportunities through graduate student research, workshops, field-days, grazing schools, publications, electronic media, meetings, and student participation.
- To involve local producers and industry in identifying researchable needs, in developing and testing systems of production, in the development of more effective dissemination of information to end users, and enhanced adoption of new technologies.
- To link this research with systems research in other ecoregions to increase the base of knowledge and understanding of the principles that apply to agricultural systems.