Long-term evaluation of bale grazing as a winter-feeding system for beef cattle in central North Dakota



      A 4-yr study was conducted to evaluate bale grazing as a winter-feeding system under central North Dakota winter conditions.

      Materials and Methods

      Two winter-feeding systems, bale grazing (BG) paddocks or dry lot (DL) pen feeding, were compared over 4 winters using nonlactating pregnant Angus cows (2016/2017, n = 32, average BW = 590 ± 69 kg; 2017/2018, n = 40, 609 ± 61 kg; 2018/2019, n = 40, 635 ± 49 kg; 2019/2020, n = 40, 620 ± 31 kg). Cows in each winter-feeding system were offered the same hay. Cow performance was assessed from BW and BCS taken at the start and end of the study.

      Results and Discussion

      Environmental conditions varied widely during the 4-yr study period. Dry matter intake averaged 11.9 kg/d and was not affected (P = 0.66) by winter-feeding system. Cows in both winter-feeding systems lost weight but ADG was greater (P = 0.02) in BG cows (−0.11 kg/d) relative to DL cows (−0.23 kg/d). Similarly, BCS loss was greater (P = 0.01) in DL cows (−0.21) relative to BG cows (−0.08). System costs were lower ($1.75/cow per day) following BG relative to DL pen feeding ($2.12/cow per day).

      Implications and Applications

      Results of this study suggest that bale grazing is a viable system for winter-feeding beef cattle in North Dakota. Greater animal performance during bale grazing coupled with the lower cost of bale grazing could improve profitability of a beef cow-calf production operation.

      Key words

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