Working livestock with nature will build bigger profits

I really focus on profits and I make no apologies for it. That is ultimately the purpose of all business and I think we tend to forget that in the tradition-bound beef industry.

Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference ManualMe too. I wish I had a Federal Reserve Note for every time I’ve heard “It’s not a living. It’s a way of life.” The correct response is: “Well, that is fine and dandy but it takes a sustainable business to sustain a way of life.” — jtl, 419

by Alan Newport via Beef Producer

A Handbook for Ranch ManagersLivestock build soil health and boost profits on crop ground and pasture when we manage to mimic nature.

I really focus on profits and I make no apologies for it. That is ultimately the purpose of all business and I think we tend to forget that in the tradition-bound beef industry.

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian ViewIn fact, I believe I talk about and write about profitability more than anyone in any other beef publication. That’s one of the reasons I remain so enamored with grazing management, with functional cow type, and now with the soil health movement. If done well, these things can help make beef production dramatically more profitable.
This is foremost on my mind as I work on the soil health issue for The Essence of Liberty: Volume I: Liberty and History: The Rise and Fall of the Noble Experiment with Constitutionally Limited Government (Liberty and ... Limited Government) (Volume 1)  The Essence of Liberty: Volume II: The Economics of Liberty (Volume 2) The Essence of Liberty: Volume III: A Universal Philosophy of Political Economy (Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic) (Volume 3) June Beef Producer.
Clear back in 2007 Gabe Brown in North Dakota was showing $239 per acre profits from grazing winter triticale and then multi-species cover crops. Then and now, Brown uses high-stock-density The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other Misfitsgrazing to get the most harvest control over the forage, to maintain quality for the cattle longer, and to more evenly spread urine and dung across the soil.

This was a gross income of $347 per acre for producing a total of 7,640 pounds of beef on 22 crop acres. The expenses were $108 per acre for   Combat Shooter's HandbookReconnaissance Marine MCI 03.32f: Marine Corps Institutethe two cover crops. The only thing I would argue with on this budget is the beef gain was valued at $1 per pound. I would suggest 50-60 cents was a more realistic value of gain.
Still, even if we use my numbers that suggests a profit of at least $120 per acre from grazing what would otherwise be non-producing crop ground. This is the type of thing to which I referred in my January 22 blog about the value of livestock to cover cropping.

Now I’m looking at some new data from Jay Fuhrer, former district conservationist for Burleigh County NRCS in North Dakota and now soil health specialist for NRCS. He’s quoting numbers from 2010 and 2011 on the Doan family’s Black Leg Ranch at Sterling, North Dakota.

In this example, the Doans put 350 dry cows on cover crops November 29, 2010, and kept them grazing through a total above 100 inches of snow until January 3, 2011, with no additional feed. A fecal analysis showed the cattle were picking out a crude protein content of 7.9% and total digestible nutrients of 59%. In subsequent years the quality of forage in these winter-grazed cover crops was similar. Even in April of 2014 the cows were obtaining crude protein above 8% and TDN of 56%. This is adequate quality for wintering dry cows.

In an analysis of the type costs encumbered by Doan’s cow wintering methods versus the average costs for the area as figured by Mark Holkup at Bismarck State College, managed grazing on cover crops scored a big win.

Holkup said the total average cost for North Dakota producers wintering cows in confinement is $1.60 per head per day for feed, fuel, and machinery repairs and depreciation.

Holkup then calculated the lower cost for grazing through winter at about 72 cents, for an 88-cents-per-day savings per cow.

Fuhrer notes the Doans and most others who use grazing instead of feeding during northern winters usually say this type management is more enjoyable, besides its greater profitability and soil building characteristics.

I don’t have reliable data like this from more southern climates but if beef producers in North Dakota, where they average only about 120 frost-free days, can make and/or save that kind of money, what should we be able to accomplish where our growing seasons are much longer and the winter nutritional requirements of our cattle much lower?

Better yet, where we already have permanent grass cover, the potential for land improvement and higher profits is even greater, with the right management using adequate recovery times and high-density grazing.


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Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference ManualPlanned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual. This is the ideal squeal to A Handbook for Ranch Managers.  Although the ecological principles remain the same, what was originally known as “The Savory Grazing Method” now answers to a multitude of different names: ranching for profit, holistic management, managed grazing, mob grazing, management intensive grazing, etc. Land & Livestock International, Inc. uses “Restoration Grazing” under its “Managing the Ranch as a Business” program.” No mater what you call it, this summary and synopsis will guide you step by step through the process and teach you how to use it as it was originally intended. No more excuses for failing to complete your grazing plans.

About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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