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Utilization of forage from pasture is a major component of beef cattle production in the Southeastern United States. In a survey of beef operations, Asem-Hiable et al., (2018) noted that 97% of respondents in the Southeastern United States (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN and VA) keep cattle primarily on pasture. Despite the large numbers of operations that utilize pasture as their primary feedstuff, further work is warranted to better understand the animal/forage dynamic. The Southeastern US has a variety of forages (warm and cool season annual pastures, small grain pastures, warm and cool season perennial pastures) that require unique management systems (cow size, type, supplement type, mineral use). Moreover, increases in input costs (feed and fertilizer) may require beef cattle producers to have a better understanding of what management decisions (supplementation, forage use and type, cow size and type) can be made to ensure that they are maximizing efficiency and thereby sustainability.From an animal production standpoint, the fluctuating costs of inputs into beef cattle production systems have shifted management dynamics towards a primarily forage-based system (Rouquette et al., 2010). The southeastern US is well-suited for nearly year-round forage production due to relatively mild climatic conditions. Beginning in the late fall (September to October), the production and quality of warm-season perennial grasses begins to decline significantly. During this time period, cool-season annual forages are not as productive, which leads to a fall-forage gap for cattlemen in Alabama. During this time period, hay or hay and co-product supplementation is often used to meet the nutritional requirements of livestock before cool-season forages become productive (Rankins Jr. and Prevatt, 2013). Numerous studies from around the United States have demonstrated that management practices that extend grazing and reduce hay feeding improve the profitability of beef enterprises (Lalman et al., 2000; Poore and Drewnoski, 2010; Ball and Lacefield, 2013). To date, many forage-based beef cattle trials have been conducted using a reductionist approach that is defined by the idea that a complex system can be understood most readily by seeking out its most fundamental contituents (USDA, 2014). These experiments focused on plant-animal interactions as a fundamental constituent of beef cow-calf operations, but did not address how this fits into a management schematic from the time of animal purchase to marketing.The goals of this project are to 1) develop a systems-management plan for improving nutritional management efficiencies in cow-calf operations from the time of animal purchase/birth to marketing, and 2) determine strategies for enhancing beef calf production through added-value management practices.

Mullenix, Ki, .
Auburn University
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