Chuck Denney-Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)
There was a time in cattle farming when you just turned animals loose to eat whatever was green and growing in a field.
Today a good beef producer knows better than that. The predominant forage for most cattle in our state is Kentucky 31 fescue. In this era of quality grass-fed beef, nutrition is key in forage production and not just in the mild weather months.
Barry Sims (UT AgResearch)
“To get the nutrition that the cattle need and get the maximum production from the herd, yeah, we need good nutrition all year long.”
Barry Sims helps lead a forage project at UT’s Highland Rim AgResearch Center in Robertson County. They’re growing two fields side-by-side – one in Indian grass and big blue stem grass and the other in switchgrass. Both are excellent forages for cattle.
“It’s a perennial plant, a massive root system down in the soil, so it’s like there are booster rockets under it to make it grow fast. So it’s a fast-growing plant.”
Sure things look great now at this time of year with plenty of rain and mild temperatures. But the dry weather and brutal heat of summer is coming soon. UT AgResearchers say they want forages that are high-yielding, but also drought and heat tolerant.
Dr. Pat Keyser (UT AgResearch)
“The reality is that you’re a grass farmer and the way you’re selling that grass is through that animal.”
UT’s Dr. Pat Keyser says cool season grasses like the Kentucky 31 fescue go dormant as the days get hotter. But the blue stem and switchgrass can be grown during summer’s roughest patches. Not only that, but these warm season grasses are high in nutritional value, and producer want to feed good hay to hungry cattle for maintaining animal performance and weight gain.
Dr. Pat Keyser
“We’re seeing gains on blue stem of two to two-and-a-half pounds per day during hot, dry summer conditions on steers, and a comparable number for steers on switchgrass is about one-point-eight pounds per day.”
By comparison, it’s less than one pound a day for fescue during that time of year. This study will go on at least two more years. But researchers believe these fields already prove that on a hot, dry day, you can still grow excellent forage.