This 9-yr study tested steer gains, residual aboveground biomass (AGB) in mid-July and early October, and economic returns and risk for tallgrass prairie grazed annually under season-long stocking (SLS) at 1.62 ha · steer−1 until early October or intensive early stocking (IES) at 0.81 ha · steer−1 until mid-July compared to a composite grazing system. The three-pasture, three-herd “IES System” is a 3-yr fixed sequence of SLS, IES, and IES (0.81 ha · steer−1) plus late-season grazing (LSG; 1.62 ha · steer−1) until early October (IES/LSG). All grazing treatments began in late April. Average gains per steer for SLS and SLS in the IES System did not differ, but were significantly less than gains for steers that grazed the entire season under IES/LSG. Gains per steer in mid-July under IES alone or in combination with LSG were similar to the same repeated grazing treatments, but were significantly less than those for steers grazed season-long. Gains per hectare under SLS did not differ, but were significantly less than those for IES treatments and the IES System. Gain per hectare in July was similar for IES repeated annually and IES/LSG, but there was greater gain per hectare for IES-treated pastures rotated within the system. Residual grass and total aboveground biomass (AGB) in mid-July did not vary among years and was generally greater on SLS than IES. In early October, grass AGB was similar for all treatments except IES/LSG, which had less residual AGB. When pasture rent was charged per head, the IES System increased the 20-yr mean return per hectare by $5.98 compared to repeated use of IES, and $8.52 compared to using only SLS. Measures of economic risk were generally intermediate for the IES system compared to IES, which consistently had the highest risk, and SLS.
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Vol. 61 • No. 2