W1012: Improving ruminant use of forages in sustainable production systems for the western U.S.
Statement of Issues and JustificationThe landscape and climate of the Western U.S. provide abundant range and agricultural lands suited to grazing and forage production, leading to a dominance of cow-calf and ewe-lamb systems in this region. The nutritional value of forages, particularly those grazed from rangeland, is highly variable in space and time, with nutrient content often limiting high levels of livestock production. The development of scientifically sound nutritional management tactics for livestock in variable and often extensive conditions presents unique challenges to researchers. Increased knowledge of the mechanisms of herbivory, digestion, and forage utilization can contribute to improved nutritional status and productivity of livestock, improved economic efficiency in forage-based livestock production systems, and improved sustainability in ranching enterprises, and the rural communities that depend upon them. A multitude of issues challenge livestock producers throughout the West, but maintaining economic viability is the most important. Improving the proportion of forage nutrients converted to animal products based on sound, science-based management strategies is the most viable means of achieving improved biological efficiency. However, production systems that optimize livestock efficiencies cannot do so at the expense of the environment. Systems that concomitantly improve livestock and landscape responses need to be used. For example, tactics leading to increased conversion of nutrients to productive purposes in the animal also lead to reduced nutrient loading in air, soil, and water through decreased animal excretion of gases and underutilized nutrients. Additionally, understanding and controlling animal factors affecting herbivory and distribution of livestock in extensive environments adds to our ability to minimize animal impacts on the environment. The focus of this Multistate Research Project is to contribute to our basic understanding of processes in (1) the plant-animal-landscape interface, (2) nutrient digestion and utilization from forages, and (3) nutritional management strategies based on grazed or harvested forages. The intent is to improve livestock digestive, metabolic, behavioral, production, and integrated system responses and to facilitate transfer this information to users such as livestock producers or land management personnel. Continuous communication and collaboration among scientists working in this discipline can promote more rapid development and transfer of new knowledge related to sustainable livestock production from forage-based systems. Research focusing on development of economically and environmentally sustainable forage-based production systems will contribute toward the ESS 2005-2010 national research priority to manage natural resources in a manner to improve the environment and the economy. Successful research in this field will also work toward the ESS priority of helping rural communities thrive by providing access to and application of new technologies relative to overcoming nutrient limitations for forage-fed livestock in the Western U.S.
Last Modified: 26-Aug-2009
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