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Pasture Finishing

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On-Pasture Finishing Viable for Smaller Feeders

Research reports from Oklahoma and Illinois detail costs, returns.



Alan Newport - Beef Producer - Published: Apr 27, 2011



Researchers in Oklahoma and Illinois recently released cost-saving details of their experiments with feed-finishing calves in a pasture setting.



The experiments ran from the late 1990s until 2006, when corn was considerably cheaper. Then the savings could be $20 to $60 per head over confined feeding in a dry lot. Today the higher feed costs imply possibly twice that much savings.



All these experiments were conducted with the idea they serve smaller feeders who direct market to consumers.



A larger story on pasture-based finishing appears in the May issue of Beef Producer inside your local Farm Progress magazine. Check out the complete reports using the links below:



more

http://beefproducer.com/story.aspx/onpasture/finishing/viable/for/smaller/feeders/14/48874
 

Denny

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Not to be a naysayer but land rent values have really changed in the last 5 years since the study. Sodbusters are creeping into grass country paying high rents changeing the whole cheap grass scenario. I like cheap commodities but those are'nt cheap anymore either.
 
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BRG said:
Great idea, but where is all the extra grass going to come from?

In our area much of it has come from the cow/calf folks that have dispersed their herds and went to running yearlings instead....

May be one of the reasons the momma cow population is the lowest its been in years.....
 

Angus 62

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There are things you can do that will produce more forage on the same acres but generally they go against tradition.

When we quit winter calving we greatly reduced the amount of hay we needed and the transfer of nutrients from one area of the ranch to another - often a corral.

You can run yearlings ahead of cows in a pasture rotation letting the yearlings have the ''cream'' in a pasture and making cows use some of the poorer quality forage - which is what they are supposed to do in the first place. That is especially true in the spring when the quality of forage is way more then even lactating cows need.
 

Faster horses

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Angus 62, that's a new one on me.

"You can run yearlings ahead of cows in a pasture rotation letting the yearlings have the ''cream'' in a pasture and making cows use some of the poorer quality forage - which is what they are supposed to do in the first place. That is especially true in the spring when the quality of forage is way more then even lactating cows need."

Lactating cows requirements are very high. Plus she needs to be in
shape to rebreed on her first cycle with the bull.

Yearlings don't have near the nutrient requirements of lactating cows.
Especially stocker yearlings. It is so much easier for them to gain weight
(even replacement heifers) which is conductive to breed-up, than a
lactating cow.
 

LazyWP

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Faster horses said:
Angus 62, that's a new one on me.

"You can run yearlings ahead of cows in a pasture rotation letting the yearlings have the ''cream'' in a pasture and making cows use some of the poorer quality forage - which is what they are supposed to do in the first place. That is especially true in the spring when the quality of forage is way more then even lactating cows need."

Lactating cows requirements are very high. Plus she needs to be in
shape to rebreed on her first cycle with the bull.

Yearlings don't have near the nutrient requirements of lactating cows.
Especially stocker yearlings. It is so much easier for them to gain weight
(even replacement heifers) which is conductive to breed-up, than a
lactating cow.

The push to run yearlings ahead of cows isn't anything new. The holistic folks and money mongers have been pushing that idea for years. The theory behind it is... that the yearlings won't graze the interior of a pasture nearly as well as cows will, plus if you just clip the tops of the grass, you will get more production out of the grass.
I am not a believer in it, but then I don't have any yearlings to experiment with either.
 

Northern Rancher

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The more successful ranchers up our way run both and use the yearlings as a relief valve in case of drought or flood. They are easier to destock or haul out than pairs. It's a different ball of wax top run boughten yearlings than your own-the profit is made the day you buy them. The best management and finest pasture can't salvage a profit out of cattle bought wrong. You have to have top cattle skills to keep light calves going through the winter or a pair of massive cojones to pit in and buy some in the grass fever market after snow melt. Myself we have some good replacement heifer sources so that's what we buy for grass cattle-if things go south we can make them into cows and amortize them out that way the shelf life on big steers off grass is pretty short.
 

Northern Rancher

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I can only think of one straight yearling deal up here and he is a pretty shrewd buyer and good grass manager. I guess both the successful ranchers and unsuccessful ones like me run both cows and yearlings.
 

Angus 62

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There is a reason all those calves head to OK and TX [when it rains] to graze wheat pasture. They can put very good and generally cheap gains on high quality forage which is why you run grass cattle to begin with.

In a good year spring pastures run way higher protein then a lactating cow needs, or a yearling as far as that goes. Young growing stock will make much better use of it if you can figure out a way to incorporate it. The point is to make the best use of available resources. It is no different then feeding dairy quality hay to stock cows. Though I know people who do that. If you have cows that need the very best forage you need a different type of cow.
 

andybob

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An interesting article on grazing native pasture;
http://sangacattle.webs.com/apps/forums/topics/show/3169124-grass-feeding-a-whole-new-ballgame-
 

PureCountry

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BRG said:
Great idea, but where is all the extra grass going to come from?

Ask people like the ones who write in Stockman Grassfarmer or AcresUSA every month. There are examples of folks doing it everywhere. If I remember right, there's people in your neck of the woods, maybe North Dakota, spreading raw milk on pastures and doubling their grass production.

Then you could always test your soil, send it to Brookside Labs in New Brigden, Ohio and get recommendations on balancing soils. You could try a patch with some Calcium, Phos, or a whole range of other natural products from liquid fish to sea salts. Find something that works and do a few acres every year or as you can afford it.

It's all plain chemistry, biology and math. If forage is truly nutrient dense, a cow does not require nearly as much as if it were nutrient deficient. Just like if we eat bread and water as opposed to a balanced diet, how would your body perform?

There are places where people are growing forage far more nutrient dense than what "Dairy Quality" even comes close to. That type of forage would fatten cattle quickly, and there is no reason why more of us can't do it.

NOT ALL OF US - I DIDN'T SAY ALL, just MORE.
 

Ben H

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I have started paying really close attention to soil maps and land classification for grass finishing. You really need to be pasturing Class I or II soils to get good enough rates of gain for a high quality grass finished product. Stockman Grass Farmer recently had an article on the finances of finishing and dairy animals grazed on crop land. Only these classes of animals really pencil out. Cow/Calf and stockers can get by on less quality land. Once we get rid of these stupid crop subsidies, it's going to be a no-brainer.
 

PureCountry

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One of the most important lessons I've had to learn in grass finishing is that the higher the quality of the forage the fatter the animal gets; and faster. We've tested forage that was the equivalent of dairy quality hay, and seen mediocre animals bloom on it. Then I've taken cattle with fantastic grass genetics, put them on mediocre pasture and seen them stale out. That's heart-breaking, and money losing.
The biggest thing is high energy pasture on balanced soil. If that is focused on and done properly, and topped up with the right bovine genetics, you can get gains on cattle that are far more profitable than feedlots.
 

BRG

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PureCountry said:
One of the most important lessons I've had to learn in grass finishing is that the higher the quality of the forage the fatter the animal gets; and faster. We've tested forage that was the equivalent of dairy quality hay, and seen mediocre animals bloom on it. Then I've taken cattle with fantastic grass genetics, put them on mediocre pasture and seen them stale out. That's heart-breaking, and money losing.
The biggest thing is high energy pasture on balanced soil. If that is focused on and done properly, and topped up with the right bovine genetics, you can get gains on cattle that are far more profitable than feedlots.

Here is a question - I know that the better the quality feed the better the cattle will do, and if we can improve the soils affordably, then great. But what about the winters we get. How do you keep gains on affordably at that time when lot of places have to feed as several places get 2 to 3 feet of snow and the top get to hard to graze every winter.
 

PureCountry

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You do the best you can. You make a plan, set it in motion, react quick when it needs re-planning. LOL

We had a plan this past winter to graze all winter. Had 8 quarters of native and bush stockpiled. January came and we got 3' of snow, and alot more as winter went along. So much for plan A, we went to plan B and bought in hay. Not a great plan B, but we made it through. I would much rather have had my own hay sitting in the yard ready if needed.

And so, plans change. This year we intend to put up hay for the first time in 10 years. I feel that because of our soil work/management, we can make hay better than can be bought in the area, weather permitting of course. Dairy quality hay or better will keep yearlings gaining through the winter, and by bale grazing it on light land we are still improving soil even in the dormant season. All things are possible with planning, management and desire. Least that's what my wife tells me. lol

Have a great day all.
 

mrj

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Doesn't average annual precipitation, seasons it is most prevalent, average temperatures, terrain, types of native grasses and forbs, planted grasses and forbs, temperatures all have to be figured into a rather complex formula to determine how viable that sort of system would be in a given location?

Then, there is the cost of improving soils, a whole other formula to be calculated.

Since soil testing in our area for tax purposes, we realize the great variability of soils we have, but haven't felt the benefits to improving native prairie soils would pay off, at this point in time.

The one thing we do know.....if the rain comes, our grass is hard to beat in any grazing system.

Even more certain.....severe drought trumps all plans!

It is an ineresting subject, and one can never learn too much.

mrj
 

PureCountry

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Words of wisdom Soap, as usual.

As for the many X-factors MRJ, they all obviously play a role in things. I kept my comments broad and general since I know that most everyone on here can factor those things in for their own unique circumstances. As Ralph Voss wrote in AcresUSA some months back, someone along the coast in Texas would be more likely to find sea salts or liquid fish much more readily available than raw milk. Each farmer's own region dictates what is available and what is feasible.

I have my own milk cow and another on the way, so milk is easy....kinda.
 

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