Enhancing Ranch Land Ecosystem Services with Semi-Confinement SystemsFri, 18 Sep 2015 17:47:07 CDT
Oklahoma State University is looking at ways cow-calf producers can improve management of native range. OSU Associate Professor of Range Cattle Nutrition Ryan Reuter discussed range management options with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays at the Kenneth and Caroline Eng McDonald Foundation Beef Symposium that was held in downtown Oklahoma City. Reuter prioritized three main management strategies.
"We need to be prepared to protect our native range from overgrazing, we need to be planning to give late season rest to those native pastures and we need be trying to incorporate prescribed fire and I think those are three key things we need to plan to do," Reuter said.
As livestock producers have dealt with five consecutive years of drought, it has been hard to rest rangeland when grass resources were limited. Also, with higher land values, Reuter said it's harder for producers to have another pasture to rotate cattle to. In order to rest pasture, cattlemen may be forced to lease additional land, sell cattle or put cattle in a confinement system. Reuter said this allows producers to move cattle off the pasture, while still having them remain productive.
OSU has been looking at keeping cattle in confinement for 120 days. If producers can provide the pasture rest for three or four months, Reuter said that can make a dramatic change in management of the grazing resource. This could provide numerous benefits, such as improved vigor of the native grass, improved biodiversity, species composition, and higher cereal stages of grasses.
"Potentially, you're going to have accumulated fuel, so you can incorporate prescribed burning, which is going to control brush and kind of maintain the natural grassland ecosystem that is really important for Oklahoma," Reuter said.
By keeping cattle in confinement system, ranchers can keep their cattle in ownership, management and production. As a result, Reuter said producers will get the grassland management benefits, while still getting income from the cows.
The confinement system also offers management flexibility from year-to-year and season-to-season. This allows cattlemen to respond to changes in the weather and market prices. Reuter said this management option gives cattlemen more tools to manage volatility.
You can hear Ron Hays and Ryan Reuter talk about range management by clicking on the LISTEN BAR below.
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