Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Timed Grazing Boosts Beef Per Acre

Growing perennial
legumes with perennial
grasses offers numerous
 benefits including often
 extending the grazing

With more pasture acreage converted to crops, livestock producers heard ways to improve grazing gains at the Missouri Forage and Grassland Conference, Nov. 4-5 at Port Arrowhead at Lake of the Ozarks.

Management-intensive grazing takes on new value, making more pounds of meat and milk per acre from remaining pastures.

Topics ranged from replacing toxic tall fescue grass with high-performance novel-endophyte varieties to how ranchers can improve performance of land, cattle and people.

Burke Teichert, general ranch manager who supervises grazing on thousands of acres in western states, marveled at Missouri’s advantage of 40 inches of rain a year instead of 18 inches. On his ranches, he plans to increase grazing to two rotations a year. In Missouri, producers return to grazed paddocks as quickly as 21 days in good weather.

Management covers more than grass and cows, Teichert said. Ranching includes finance, marketing and people. “If you change one, you affect all.”

It’s difficult to be expert in all, he said. “Call on others in areas of inadequacies. Ask for help.” Invest in attending meetings, he said. He learns a lot from other ranchers.

The best way to boost profits is to cut overhead. “It’s hard to do, because we like our stuff.” That includes horses, trailers, four-wheelers and pickups.

One dollar invested should return two dollars instead of 50 cents, he said. “Cut spending on things that rust, rot or depreciate.”

Dollars invested in land and cattle can boost ranch profits. Increasing volume boosts income, if costs are held in check.

Grazing instead of haying reduces need for equipment. “Forage management profit comes from grazing, not in haying,” he said. If you need hay, buy it or hire it harvested.

In starting his talk about the people part of business, Teichert asked: “How many of you supervise people?” After only a couple of hands went up, he asked: “How many have a wife and kids?” That brought a chuckle from the group.

When he talked of acres of grass per cow, those who had been to the Missouri grazing schools knew the benefits. With rotational grazing, grass quality goes up, gains improve and land carries more cows.

“Profits improve when acres per cow are cut and cows per person increase,” he said. “It takes less labor per cow to manage 500 head in one herd than 500 cows in five herds.”

As grazing improves, it’s easier to add that one more cow. She needs little more labor.

When asked how many people for a cow herd, Teichert said he aims for three people per 2,000 cows. But, he added, that requires contracting out haying and fence building.

Teichert returned the second day for more talk on ranching. “Use a systems approach,” he said. “But realize that a system can’t be rigid. A ranch contains dynamic biological, economic and social systems. It requires a lifelong approach.”

One of his big advances was adopting planned, time-controlled grazing. Timing is biological, not calendar time, he added. With weather in the mix, no two seasons are alike.

Grazing requires an astute observer, Teichert said. “You must learn quickly if a pasture is overstocked or understocked. Grass must be kept in vegetative growth.

“Rigidity assures more failures than successes,” he added.

“Cows must fit where they are going to live.” He noted that making too much genetic progress, adding size, can lead to declining production. “Cows must live on what is there, with a little help from you.” When grass runs short, know when to feed supplements.

You can’t full-feed cows, he said. “A little supplement, energy and protein, can take rough edges off of Mother Nature. Look for times when a dollar spent returns five dollars.”

Teichert kept coming back to a previous theme. The best way to better profits is through lower costs.

It takes a while to learn that cows can graze through a foot of snow, Teichert said. But when snow piles up waist deep, you must have a blizzard plan in place.

Know what you are going to do, in advance.

The same applies to a drought plan. Starting to depopulate early in a dry time can lead to less sell-off. Be ahead in your thinking, he said.

MFGC holds an annual conference, but sponsors grazing schools across the state each summer. The group also supports youth events in pasture judging and management.

The group’s latest work includes the Alliance for Grassland Renewal. It teaches how to replace toxic tall fescue with novel-endophyte varieties.

Click for more information about MFGC.
(by Duane Daily, MU Writer)


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