Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

A comparative assessment of four winter feeding programs for spring calving cow-calf ranches in the Harney Basin, Oregon Public Deposited

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  • The objective of this thesis is to assess four winter feeding programs of spring-calving brood cows that may improve profitability to ranching operations of the Harney Basin, Oregon. The four feeding strategies include strip grazed rake-bunched hay, supplemented range grazing, strip grazed meadow pasture, and baled hay feeding. These first three alternatives were compared to baled hay feeding, the preferred practice of the region, in terms of profitability to the operation and management requirements. To evaluate the alternatives a deterministic biophysical-economic simulation model was constructed. The biophysical model simulates relationships between (1) the physiological status and nutritional requirements of mature gestating cows, (2) the forage base being utilized, and (3) the effects of the physical environment upon the nutritional requirements of cows and their ability to forage successfully for food. The biological simulation is designed to provide, as output, measures of cow reproductive performance and forage utilization. This information is integrated into herd and pasture management subroutines to yield measures of herd production, and pasture and feed utilization. An economic subroutine uses results from the herd production and forage utilization subroutines to estimate costs and net returns to each feeding strategy. Risk is introduced into the simulation by varying the climatic components of the physical environment. Four winter scenarios are represented, ranging from mild to very severe. Probabilities are assigned to each winter scenario for each feeding program. The probabilities under each alternative for each of the four climate scenarios are combined to yield estimates of the expected net return of the feeding strategy. Analysis of the results indicate that raked-bunched hay is the best alternative to baled hay feeding. Returns are substantially higher as a result of reduced wintering costs. Cow performance factors remain nearly identical to hay fed cows, and management of the winter operation is simplified. In addition, there appears to be little risk associated with management of the raked hay alternative. The range grazing program also yields superior economic results to the operation when compared to baled hay feeding. Although there is considerable variation in net returns to the alternative over the climate scenarios, the expected return to range grazing is substantially higher than the baled hay strategy. Variability in net returns to range grazing is due to effects of ground snow depth levels which may prevent cows from feeding on range forages. When these conditions occur emergency hay feeding is required. Management of the operation is intensified, increasing with the severity of the winter. Based upon the economic results of the simulation it appears that range grazing is a promising alternative to baled hay. However, because empirical data are limited regarding the adaptability of this alternative in the Harney Basin, more information is needed regarding (1) ground snow depth level effects upon the feeding success of cows, and (2) reproductive performance of cows following severe winters. The results of the meadow grazing alternative indicate that this strategy is not a viable alternative to baled hay feeding. Returns to the operation are reduced as the result of poor cow reproductive factors, and the vulnerability of this strategy to relatively shallow snow cover requiring large amounts of emergency feeding.
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