Summer Legumes for Creep Grazing in Cow-Calf Production on Bermudagrass Pastures

  •  W. Pitman    
  •  Ryon Walker    
  •  Guillermo Scaglia    
  •  Blair Buckley    
  •  M. Alison    
  •  K. Han    
  •  Jeff Gurie    
  •  Glen Gentry    


The extensive cow-calf industry in the Gulf Coast Region of the southeastern USA is based on pastures of warm-season perennial grasses, which often provide insufficient forage availability and/or nutritive value in late summer. Several species of summer-growing legumes have potential to increase nutrient availability for nursing calves through creep grazing. Selected warm-season legumes were evaluated at multiple locations across Louisiana. At each location, a treatment with 10% of the pasture area planted to legume was compared to a bermudagrass control treatment. Objectives were to assess both plant and animal factors influencing potential for creep grazing to increase calf weaning weight. Iron-and-Clay cowpea was widely adapted and suited to grazing defoliation although not tolerant of flooding. Aeschynomene was particularly well adapted to silt loam and silty clay loam bottomland soils but was not readily grazed when woody stems developed before stocking. Calves had to learn to utilize creep areas and consume unfamiliar legume species. Both pasture and animal characteristics affected response to legume creep grazing. At the Hill Farm Research Station, the combination of young cows and pastures with limiting nutritive values produced low weaning weights (200 to 215 kg) and resulted in weaning weight increases of from 5 to 7 kg from creep grazing. Benefits were not detected from creep grazing at other locations where calf weaning weights were higher. Creep grazing can contribute to calf weaning weight when forage grazed by the cow herd does not allow calves to attain their genetic potential, however, intensive management is required.

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