Evaluation of alternative forage species to reduce risk for cow-calf production systems in the Appalachian region

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Virginia Tech


Optimizing forage productivity is essential to reduce pasture seasonality and ensure available forage to meet the nutritional needs of livestock. This study explores the risk-buffering ability of warm-season forages to fill the summer slump gap in production of cool-season grasses. Small plot experiments were initiated in summer of 2008 in Kentland Farm, Northern Piedmont AREC and Shenandoah AREC, Virginia. Treatments included endophyte-infected tall fescue (KY31 E+), endophyte free tall fescue (KY31 E-), novel endophyte tall fescue (MaxQ), Crabgrass in combination with endophyte-infected tall fescue, Teff, Bermudagrass (BG), and Caucasian bluestem (CB). Plots were harvested May through October of 2009 and 2010 at the late boot stage at a cutting height of 10cm. Subsamples were analyzed for dry matter and nutritive value. To assess risk, bootstrap distributions of biomass and quality data were generated by Monte Carlo simulation and compared against an objective function defined as 59 kg ha-1 d-1 forage yield; 10% CP; 60% TDN. Regardless of variability, warm-season grasses produced biomass yields and nutritional values adequate to fill the summer slump from cool-season forages and demonstrated a higher probability of meeting the minimum requirements in July, August and September. Teff was most consistent in meeting the minimum requirements in mid-summer. However, with good conditions for establishment, both BG and CB can help to fill the gap in summer months when compared to cool-season tall fescue. Bootstrap distributions provide producers with a tool that links their production goals with a measurable value of production risk.



forage, cow-calf, risk management, resampling