Improving management of permanent pastures is crucial to profitability.
Increasing land costs, commodity prices, and other inputs are all factors in incentivizing better pasture management. Also, a saying that is frequently told is “Healthy soils grow healthy plants, and healthy plants feed healthy livestock.” This is truly a simple, yet important reminder that we must focus on the whole system when producing a safe, wholesome beef product.
Reducing feed costs
One of the most heralded and frequently observed components of well managed pasturelands, is reduced feed costs. Better pasture management results in more grazing days. More grazing days yields less days delivering harvested forages to beef cows, which is where a large portion of the costs exist in a cow/calf enterprise. As a result, there is normally a direct correlation with more grazing days and reduced costs.
Decreasing weed control
Proper pasture management will decrease the need for weed control, added fertilizer costs, and improve animal nutrition. Some components of proper pasture management include resting forages by removing animal grazing. This allows for plants to recover, rebuild root reserves, and to alleviate animals grazing out desirable plant species. Location of water, shade, and fence lines can influence animal grazing patterns and the placement of nutrients. Thus, planning a rotational grazing system that accommodates adequate rest periods and increases nutrient placement over a greater percentage of the acreage is very beneficial.
Produce quality forages
In times of forage dormancy, it is important to provide cattle feedstuffs that meet their nutrient requirements. In most cattle herds, hay is the foundation of winter feeding. Producing or procuring quality hay is easier said than done. In many parts of the Midwest, hay harvest is delayed until row crops are planted. Thus, producing high quality forages is sometimes a challenge. Improvements in hay-making have aided a timely hay harvest. Higher moisture hay making, such as wet-wrapping hay has offered opportunities to produce high quality forage in smaller time windows.
Cover crops offer a unique opportunity to produce forage for livestock, while still accomplishing soil health and conservation goals. Cover crops for forage production can be an alternative to hay production. This can result in better land use efficiency and increase the opportunity to incorporate livestock onto acres solely used for row crops.
No matter if you are producing forages or purchasing them, high quality forage is the foundation of beef cattle rations. Proper pasture management and production of high quality forages will result in lower costs, better animal health and performance, and better use of our land resource.