My farming operation consists of 480 acres of land in Macoupin County. This land is used to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa with the balance in pasture. The pasture is utilized by our cow-calf beef operation. My parents, my brother and I are all involved in the operation.
Before receiving the grant we were in the planning stage of implementing a management-intensive grazing system on 80 acres of row cropped land. The grant came at an opportune time to move forward with these plans.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
My project goal involved the implementation of a management-intensive grazing system on 80 acres of previously cropped land with the intent of extending the grazing season and achieving additional profits through reduced feed costs on our beef cow-calf operation.
To implement the grazing system we installed five-strand high tensile fence around the perimeter of the 80 acres. We then divided the acreage into seven paddocks with two wire high tensile fence. Two frost-free waterers were installed at central locations for the cattle to gain access to water within a walking distance of 800 feet. Orchard grass was seeded on 60 acres of the land with a seeding rate of 20# per acre in July of 2002. Twenty acres of land was seeded to rye, oats, and turnips in September of 2002. The seeding rate was 1 bushel of rye, 1 bushel of oats, and five pounds of turnips per acre. The mixture was sown into standing corn utilizing an aerial application. Forty-five head of beef cows were grazed on 80 acres of land for nine out of twelve months. The feed cost per head for the grazed cattle was $.30 per head per day as compared to cattle on self fed hay whose feed cost per head per day was $1.20. The gross revenue for the forty-five beef cows was $21,000. The estimated gross revenue for the same land planted to corn yielding 100 bu. per acre @ $2.00/bu is $16,000.
In November of 2002 we hosted a field day discussing the use of rye, oats and turnips to extend the grazing season. Dave Siebert and Ed Ballard, forage system educators from the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension spoke at the field day. NRCS grazing specialist, Roger Staff and NRCS technician, Brad Burrnett were instrumental in guiding me through the fence and water system installation.
The grazing season was extended from five months per year to nine months per year. Feed costs were reduced by $.90 per head per day while cattle were grazing forages. Gross profit for the 80 acres was increased by $5,000 dollars. The results were very close to what was expected. One thing I would do differently is to sow the rye, oats, and turnip mixture earlier in the growing season so the forage would have a longer growing season and yield more tons per acre.
Managed grazing has definite profit advantages over row crops. Managed grazing also helps to control erosion better than cropping land. It is a system, however, that requires a significant outlay of funds for fencing, watering, and forage seed in the beginning year. It also requires a good deal of time and physical labor to move cows from paddock to paddock and to construct the fencing. In conclusion I believe managed grazing is a profitable and worthwhile endeavor.