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Economic Feasibility of Using Switchgrass Pasture to Produce Beef Cattle Gain and Bioenergy Feedstock

Biermacher, Jon T., Haque, Mohua, Mosali, Jagadeesh, Rogers, James K.
BioEnergy research 2017 v.10 no.3 pp. 740-749
Panicum virgatum, analysis of variance, beef cattle, bioenergy, bioenergy industry, data collection, economic feasibility, farms, feedstocks, field experimentation, grazing intensity, livestock production, markets, models, pastures, prices, production technology, stocking rate, Great Plains region, Oklahoma
Integration of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) into livestock production systems has potential to improve farm economics and encourage development of a biofuel industry in the Southern Great Plains. The objectives of this study were to determine the economics of seven alternative switchgrass grazing and bioenergy feedstock systems and to determine how sensitive the results are among the systems for a range of cattle and feedstock prices. Data were collected from a completely randomized designed grazing study in south-central Oklahoma in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Stocking density treatments [0, 2.5, 4.9 and 7.4 hd ha⁻¹] were randomly assigned to 12 0.81-ha switchgrass pastures. Using biological data from the field trial, economic data collected from the marketplace and assumptions about prices of bioenergy feedstock, seven production systems were simulated. The systems included no-graze feedstock only (NG/FS); graze lightly no feedstock (GL/NF); graze moderately no feedstock (GM/NF); graze heavily no feedstock H/NF)]; lightly grazed plus feedstock (GL/F); moderately grazed plus feedstock (GM/F); and heavily grazed plus feedstock (GH/F). Enterprise budgeting was used to compute expected net returns for the seven systems. Random-effects mixed ANOVA models were used to determine the effects of production system on yield, gain, and net return. At a feedstock price $0 Mg⁻¹, the GM/NF was the most profitable ($45 ha⁻¹) system. At feedstock prices of $55 and $83 Mg⁻¹, the GL/F system realized net returns of $232 and $523 ha⁻¹, respectively, and for feedstock prices >$83 Mg⁻¹, the NG/FS system was determined to be most economical.