70199 Using Gaming to Develop Forage Systems for Pasture-Based Dairies.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012: 9:15 AM
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Nicholas Hill, Dennis Hancock and David Kissel, 3111 Miller Plant Science Bldg, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Pasture-based dairy operations convert irrigated row crop farms into irrigated pasture systems in the Coastal Plain of Georgia. There is little data available where forages have been tested under management conditions typical of the pasture-based dairies, making planning forage systems difficult for producers. The objective of our research is to develop forage production curves and assess quality of forage when exposed to management typical of that on pasture-based dairies, and develop a web-based gaming program by which producers can plan forage systems with various animal management variables. Warm season perennial and winter annual forage plots were established in replicated plots within managed center pivots on pasture-based dairy farms. Winter annuals were interseeded into bermudagrass paddocks on or about 1 October over 3 years. Yield, distribution, and digestible nutrient yield were calculated for each species. Monthly yield curves were calculated for each species and species mixtures. Expected daily forage intake was calculated for dry, pregnant and lactating cows, heifers and calves, based upon animal weight. Production and utilization data were entered into a data base and a gaming program developed. Tifton-85 bermudagrass overseeded with cereal rye and ryegrass gave the most uniform forage yield distributions of all pasture combinations. The gaming program permits producers to use calving dates to manage around peaks and valleys of forage production. Based upon the forage gaming program, the carrying capacity of a pasture based dairy in the northern Georgia Coastal Plain is 4 cows per hectare.