Forage-Animal Relationships under Grazing Conditions
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Forages supply approximately 70% of the nutrients consumed by the nearly $16 billion livestock and product industry in Texas (19). More than 90% of the feed supply in cow-calf operations and 60% in slaughter beef operations are derived from forages. Collectively, forages on pasture and rangeland occupy nearly 70% of the 130.5 million acres of land area in Texas. Much of this area includes land that is either marginally or completely unsuited for row crop production. Forages are therefore the primary crop in Texas that supports livestock, wildlife, and recreation as well as being an inseparable component of resource conservation and environment-sustainability. There is a research and implementation need for comparative information on forage varieties, sustainability, grazing systems, animal performance, and management strategies for pastures in Texas.Grasslands are complex, interdependent ecosystems influenced by the interactions of grazing animals, plants, soils, microorganisms, and climatic conditions (13). Grazing management strategies result primarily from long-term experience, and from grazing experiments targeted at defining input-output relationships. In a review, Sollenberger et al. (46) cited more than 460 articles to assess whether or not USDA-NRCS prescribed grazing practices on pastures met the purposes and criteria stated in policy guidelines. They identified the following primary purposes or desired outcomes from imposing management strategies: 1) grazing intensity (stocking rate); 2) stocking method (continuous vs rotational); 3) timing of grazing (season of grazing and deferment from grazing); 4) type and class of livestock used; and 5) livestock distribution on landscape. These management strategies significantly influence resource conservation and ecosystem sustainability. The inclusion of the livestock component in sustainable agricultural systems provides for greater opportunities to evaluate forage utilization, soil fertility, and nutrient cycling (16, 17, 38)..........