Statewide Forage Production Improvement Program

John S. Powley, Maui County Extension Agent
Statewide Project

Objectives: To meet the needs of ranchers in Hawaii to increase the production, sustainability and quality of forage through environmentally sound and economically competitive practices.

Collaboration with Jim Brewbaker resulted in the introduction of a seedless hybrid variety (K1000) of Leucaena leucocephaia into a portion the forage plots at elevations from 3000 ft to 4500 ft. This forage will be tested for production and resistance to grazing pressure after establishment at higher elevations. A control plot was also established at the low plot at 500 ft.

A plot allocation was also secured at the Kula Experiment Station and a seed source orchard (30 trees) was established for another variety (KX2) of Leucaena leucocephaia.

Two of the grasses planted in the upper elevation plots show promise after 5 yrs of grazing and drought. Signal grass (Brachiaria decumbens) and Rhodes grass (Chloris gayana) are still present. Signal grass is the more vigorous survivor.

At the low elevation exclousure the Stylosanthes scraba seca, was established with the grasses and survived the drought period but did not stand up to the heavy grazing trial. Tripsacum dactyolides recovered from a heavy grazing trial and the drought period. After the legume, Stylosanthes, was grazed out a forage peanut variety was planted and survived the drought and the grazing. The Suerte, (Paspalum atratum) and the buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) survived and seeding has begun this year. The Suerte (Paspalum atratum) seed and the forage peanut seed, Amarillo, were gleaned from a small plot at the Mealani field station.

In the low elevation plot seeds from the first planting of Suerte were harvested and re-planted. The area for the Suerte was doubled to accommodate this planting. This year both sections will be harvested and the seed made available for another working plot at a higher elevation with rotational grazing using weaned steers. The low elevation plot will be grazed and re-growth will be measured on a thirty-day cycle for dry matter and nutrient production.

A newly formed beef production company, the Maui Cattle Company (Haleakala Ranch, Ulupalakua Ranch, Hana Ranch, Kipu Kai Ranch and Nobriga feedlot) is negotiating for up to 2000 acres of out of production pineapple land in and near the Honakahau Valley on West Maui. The board of directors of the Maui Cattle Company has requested assistance in converting this land to irrigated pasture to feed pre-feedlot cattle. This effort will become part of this project concentrating initially on pH and fertility and the establishment of forage tree legumes.

Impact: Individual sessions have been held with 11 cattle producers. The main thrust of this dissemination of information was to allow producers to see how much production is possible with irrigation or in another higher rainfall zone at the low elevation.

In June 2003 a field day and range/pasture trip was held on Haleakala Ranch that featured an international grazing consultant, CTAHR specialists and CES Extension agents. This gathering reached 66 producers, land stewards and other graziers.

The Maui Cattle Company plans to utilize the Suerte seed and the K 1000 seedless forage trees in a venture to produce a locally grown and marketed natural beef. Suerte has also been selected for the research grass plots at Waimanalo. The only sources of seed at this point are the low elevation plots on Maui and the Mealani Field Station on the Big Island.

Stakeholder Input: Haleakala Ranch has built all the enclosures and provided all the water lines and water. The Maui Cattle Company will provide the pasture and water for continued testing in Pulehu and will also provide the land and water for further efforts in West Maui pending finalization of an agreement with the Maui Pineapple Co.

Future Implications: Production trials are under way for the irrigated grasses. Upper elevation forage legume trees have been planted and will be evaluated for establishment, sustainability and total production over the next several years. This project (13-108) has great potential for enhancing beef production in the state. Improved amounts and quality of forage on offer will provide a means to keep more cattle in the state to produce a locally grown and marketed product while reducing or eliminating the exorbitant cost of shipping animals to the mainland to be fed.

With the continued in-kind input of Haleakala Ranch, The Maui Cattle Company, Dr. Brewbaker and the Maui Land and Pineapple Company this project has positive potential to help the land stewards in the state. I would like to request an extension for the year 2003-2004.