Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Agricultural Economics (MS)

Degree Level



Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness


Michael P. Popp

Committee Member

Mitchell, James

Second Committee Member

Nieman, Christine


nutrient management, production risk mitigation


Forage and pasture trials were conducted over the summers of 2021 and 2022 to assess how forage production and nutritive value of sorghum sudangrass, cowpea, and sorghum sudangrass-cowpea mixtures, sod-seeded to bermudagrass pasture would impact stocker cattle performance. The forage trials compared forage production and quality when poultry litter was surface or sub-surface applied biennially in comparison to a no poultry litter control. Poultry litter is a nutrient dense fertilizer utilized on pastures in the mid-southern United States to increase forage nutritive value and yield. Broadcasting poultry litter results in more nutrient losses due to runoff and nitrogen volatilization compared to sub-surface applied litter. Partial budgeting allowed determination of relative profitability by accounting for yield, nutritive quality (crude protein) and cost differences across production systems. Sod-seeded sorghum sudangrass on bermudagrass pasture in combination with sub-surfaced poultry litter showed promising positive yield implications for producers across two production years with summer drought. Cattle and/or hay producers as well as policy makers stand to gain from this research as we quantify how nutrient utilization with sub-surfaced poultry litter can both improve yield, attendant profitability and reduce soil nutrient losses. With bermudagrass the predominant forage species on pastures during summer months, relatively poor average daily gains in stocker cattle are observed in comparison to fall, winter, and spring grazing when cool season grasses of higher quality can improve daily gain. As such, sod-seeded sorghum sudangrass, as a summer annual, has been tested in pasture trials for the last two years, in light of greater expected drought tolerance and forage palatability when compared to bermudagrass alone. In pasture trials, we evaluated the relative profitability of various pasture feeding systems by accounting for cost and average daily gain differential. Feeding cattle on bermudagrass pastures led to higher average daily gain than on improved pastures. When summer annuals are planted sufficiently early in the growing season to withstand droughty conditions, as in 2022, improved pasture using sorghum sudangrass demonstrated higher profitability and more forage availability than bermudagrass. Across both the forage and pasture trials, synergies between sorghum sudangrass and cowpeas, in terms of soil nitrogen fixation and nutritive quality enhancement in forage, were insufficient given high cost and limited cowpea regrowth.

Available for download on Friday, February 13, 2026