BSI Projects

Enhancing Protein Production through Crops and Cattle

Lead Project Investigator: James MacDonald, Associate Professor, Department of Animal Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Justification: There are three realities that will affect future beef production systems:

  • Rapidly expanding population will require us to feed 9 – 10 people with the land base we currently have,
  • Traditional perennial grasslands are declining and will continue to do so, thereby reducing the availability of traditional forage resources for beef production, and
  • It is difficult for young people to have the capitol to invest into land resources to enter into agriculture.

The project will develop a cow/calf system without perennial forage that utilizes crop residues and annual forages following cereal grain production as forage resources for cows.

Production Efficiency of Perennial Grassland Systems

Lead Project Investigator: Mitchell Stephenson, Assistant Professor, Panhandle Research & Extension Center, University of Nebraska

Justification: Cattle production in Nebraska is reliant on the perennial grassland forage resources that compromises about 46% of the state’s land area. Grazing management strategies that increase the efficient use of perennial grasslands can help livestock producers become more sustainable and increase the level of production per land area. Increasing harvest efficiency, the amount of forage intake by cattle compared to the amount available, on grazinglands is significant from a beef production potential because small increases in harvest efficiency can result in considerable increases in carrying capacity of grazingland. This on-ranch project will evaluate the relationships between multiple grazing strategies and harvest efficiency, rangeland health and production, and plant species composition on Sandhills rangelands.

Collaborators: Walt Schacht, Professor, School of Natural Resources and Department of Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Jerry Volesky, Professor, West Central Research & Extension Center; Bethany Johnston, Extension Educator, Panhandle Research & Extension Center; Jack Arterburn, Extension Educator, Panhandle Research & Extension Center; Daren Redfearn, Associate Professor, Department of Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; and Jay Parsons, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Outcomes of Integrating Cattle into Cropping Systems

Lead Project Investigator: Daren Redfearn, Associate Professor, Department of Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Justification: Crop producers and ranchers should embrace competition for land resources. Adoption of integrated crop-beef cattle systems will enhance the long-term resiliency of Nebraska’s agricultural production systems. Our philosophy is that these diversified crop-forage-livestock systems are more productive, sustainable, and economically competitive with traditional cropping or livestock systems. This project will measure the effects of integrating forage cover crops and crop residues, cropping rotation, and cattle effects on crop agronomic performance and soil properties as indicators of soil health.

Collaborators: Humberto Blanco, Associate Professor, Department of Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Roger Elmore, Professor, Department of Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Robert Mitchell, Professor, Department of Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Research Agronomist, USDA Agricultural Research Service

Utilization of Annual Forages and Crop Residues in Developing a Year-round Grazing System

Lead Project Investigator: Harvey Freetly, Researcher, USDA MARC, and Adjunct Professor, Department of Animal Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Justification: Fall calving offers potential opportunities of integrating beef cattle production with farming systems. In the Midwest, fall calving helps to distribute the labor of the beef production and the farming enterprises across the year. The input/output relationships of these beef systems are poorly defined. Two management strategies are being examined. The first system is based on the premise that perennial summer forage is available. The system is designed to utilize perennial summer forage to support cows. Utilization of crop residue is incorporated into the system. The second system is based on utilization of harvested crop residue combined with the use of cover crops. This system is meant to integrate beef production into a farming system where perennial grass is not available.

Collaborators: Bob Cushman, Faculty, Department of Animal Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Kristin Hales, Adjunct Professor, Department of Animal Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Mary Drewnoski, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; James MacDonald, Associate Professor, Department of Animal Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Brian Vander Ley, Assistant Professor, Great Plains Vet Ed Center

Predicting Consequences of Changing Systems: Economic and Production Parameters

Lead Project Investigator: Jay Parsons, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Justification: Agricultural production systems are complex interactions between many biological, environmental, and human factors. A study of such systems, especially integrated crop-livestock production systems, is difficult and time consuming to complete using experimental trials. This project will leverage the data produced from experimental production system trials into computer simulated case study farms that will provide a foundation for testing the proposed systems for robustness and resiliency. The case study models will be used to identify key variables, assess various risk scenarios, and test proposed new systems that will guide future research.

Collaborators: Mary Drewnoski, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Daren Redfearn, Associate Professor, Department of Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; James MacDonald, Associate Professor, Department of Animal Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Mitchell Stephenson, Assistant Professor, Panhandle Research & Extension Center, University of Nebraska; and Matt Spangler, Associate Professor, Department of Animal Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Producer and Community Outreach through Extension

Decision making in farming and ranching is extremely complex as it often involves several interacting factors such as impacts on the soil, plants, animals, economics as well as social aspects. In addition to using the information produced as a part of the research component of this project, extension personnel will work with producers currently using management practices being examined and those interested in adopting new practices to serve as case studies/ demonstration sites. The team will develop and deliver information, and conduct educational activities that will enhance stakeholder understanding of:

  • Grazing management effects on harvest efficiency and long-term productivity of perennial grassland,
  • Avenues for developing new or expanding existing beef enterprises by incorporating cattle into cropping systems, and
  • Beef cattle impacts on ecosystem services.