Could Hungry Cows Extend the Life of the Ogallala?
Texas Tech researchers believe grazing cattle on forage land could conserve water as well as yield a profit.
Written by Cory Chandler
Researchers believe integrating forage production and/or grazing with crop production could improve water conservation due to the water-use efficiencies of forage.
- Producers who foraged livestock or grew forage fields alongside row crops have consistently enjoyed higher net yields for the amount of water and fertilizer used.
In 2005, for example, one TAWC grower devoted all of his acreage to foraging cattle. He used an average 1.23 inches of irrigated water per acre and enjoyed a yield of $125.89 per acre, or $93.34 for every inch of water he used – more than double any other system in terms of dollar per inch of water used.
These findings confirm more than 10 years of separate studies led by Allen, testing forages against cotton monocultures on Texas Tech’s Research Farm in New Deal.
- Sorghum requires less water than corn and can return similar profitability to the grower per acre.
- Perennial forages have a big advantage in prevention of soil erosion, lower nitrogen and water requirements, and have the potential to be profitable, particularly for the amount of water invested.
- Integrating forage production and/or grazing with crop production generally improves water conservation of the overall system because of the water-use efficiencies of forage.
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Vivian Allen is a Thornton Distinguished Professor and Horn Professor of Forages in the Department of Plant and Soil Science in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources.
View her profile in our online Experts Guide.