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Evaluation of pasture rejuvenation methods to determine the most effective & profitable method

Updated: May 10

Collaborators: Soames Smith (Rycroft) and Bill Smith (Grovedale)

Funding Received from: Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund (ACIDF)

Supported by: Agriculture Opportunity Fund (AOF), Alberta Agriculture & Forestry, MD of Greenview, and MD of Spirit River

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2017 Annual Report

According to a recent report by Statistics Canada (2014), Alberta, with its vast rangelands and plentiful feed supply, dominates Canada's beef production. The 2011 Census of Agriculture by Statistics Canada (2012) showed that Alberta accounted for about 40% of the national cattle herd, with pasture land accounting for 43% of total farm area in Alberta. Cow-calf producers know that grazing on productive pastures can be very profitable. However, over time, the productivity and livestock carrying capacity of seeded hay fields and pastures on beef cattle operations may decline, largely a result of reduced stand vigor, consequence of drought, pests, weeds, the invasion of unpalatable or less productive species, overgrazing and poor soil fertility. Producing high quality forage and maintaining productive forage stands is a major challenge that Alberta’s beef producers encounter. Rejuvenation is a complex and costly challenge for producers. With the high costs and loss of productive time associated with forage stand termination and re-establishment, producers are anxious to identify all options for sustaining a forage stand.

Producers’ questions in the Peace and elsewhere on forage-stand rejuvenation methods always include: How much more forage does a re-seed produce? How will I gain from forage stand rejuvenation? Where will I see the benefits of forage stand rejuvenation? Which re-seeding methods and what seeding equipment should I use? How can I reduce soil compaction and improve soil health conditions, as well as improve water infiltration? Can I seed in fall instead of spring? Are there studies comparing emerging new ideas of methods of rejuvenation to already established methods?

Recent on-farm studies in parts of the Peace region of Alberta identified high soil compaction, reduced soil water infiltration, and low legume content as factors affecting the condition of forage stands (Omokanye, 2015). With these factors, consequently, the profitability of the beef cattle industry is negatively affected. Though different methods of rejuvenation have been examined in Western Canada (e.g. Jungnitsch et al., 2005; Nazarko, 2008; AARD, 2013) and the USA (e.g. Undersander et al., 2001), most of these studies have only examined a few methods at a time. Local on-farm research is needed to compare all, or at least most, of the practical methods of rejuvenation to determine the most effective and profitable methods for producers in comparison to a complete break and reseed scenario. To answer producers’ questions, the present project looked at a dozen methods of rejuvenation of depleted forage stands at two locations in the Peace.

Specific Objective

The objective of this project is to examine various methods of forage stand rejuvenation and types of equipment in an effort to demonstrate practical, sustainable forage production and low cost options with maximal success.