Two research projects funded by the Illinois Beef Association’s checkoff division are producing intriguing results.
Researchers at the University of Illinois and Iowa State University received funding for the projects.
In Illinois, the focus was on rotational grazing systems, says Dan Shike, a professor of animal science at the university. The project utilized strip grazing for both spring and fall stockpiled pastures, with the goal of measuring the impact of the grazing management systems on producer profitability.
Shike says stockpiling forage in the spring, when grass is rapidly growing, represents a somewhat unique approach to grazing.
“We rested some of the pasture right away in April and May to stockpile for the summer,” he says of the research conducted at the Dixon Springs Ag Center in southern Illinois. “The cattle did a good job of cleaning up the pastures despite the height of the grass.”
Shike says some pastures designated for fall stockpiling were fertilized after the final summer grazing.
“That’s something we have to factor into the cost analysis,” he says. “Ultimately, this comes down to costs and how it helps the operation.”
He says the cows used in the study calved in the fall, and they did not put on a lot of weight during the research project.
“Obviously if these were dry cows, they would put on much more weight,” Shike says.
He adds while the results are promising, at least another year’s worth of data is needed to come to any definitive conclusion.
The project at Iowa State University evaluated individual feed consumption and conversion with calves who were creep fed, and the relationship to the milk EPD of their mother.
“The idea was to see if creep feeding was influencing that milk EPD,” says Patrick Wall, Iowa State Extension beef specialist in Knoxville, Iowa.
He says the project showed the amount of creep feed consumed is having an impact on that EPD. Wall says the study shows the intake of feed within a group of calves is highly variable.
“We have animals who hardly eat any creep feed, and animals that may eat as much as 10 pounds per day,” he says.
Since weaning weight is used to determine the milk EPD, calves that eat more feed are skewing the numbers, Wall says.
“We expect a certain level of performance in growth, so if that’s heavier than expected or less than expected, the milk EPD is going to get the credit or the blame,” he says. “Having access to creep feed can have a huge impact on weaning weight.”
Wall says other factors, such as the environment and genetics, also play a role in determining the milk EPD.
“This is really the point where genetics for weaning weight and milk intersect with the environment we put them in.”