I purchased my ranch in 1974 after leaving NASA where I did computer data analysis and research on instrumentation systems. My ranch consists of 320 acres of rolling hills and creek bottom land in Howard County, MO. Approximately 280 acres are in grass/legumes with the rest in scattered woods. It has been a cow/calf operation using continuous grazing for 20 years. Six years ago I learned of intensive grazing management and have experimented with it for four years on 55 acres with good results. In 1993, I developed a software program that does the calculations for intensive grazing, etc.; average forage production, total stock live weight, daily feed required, acres/day required, acres/paddock, and number of paddocks. With my last SARE grant in 1995, I expanded my intensive grazing capability, enhanced my software with budget data and proved the benefits of retained ownership through the stocker phase of cattle production. In 1995 and again in 1996, I had received two Missouri Sustainable grants; one to do a solar powered watering system for intensive grazing and another for Beef cattle improvement in a sustainable management intensive grazing system.
Project Description and Results:
With Intensive Grazing, I am proving that Missouri cattlemen can realize extra income and have a more sustainable livestock production by retained ownership of their calves from birth to slaughter. My main goal was to utilize more forage in my feeding program in order to lower my feed cost and develop a marketing plan for the additional beef production.
I retained 20 calves that were born in spring of 1995. With intensive grazing, I utilized the leader/follower system for the stocker phase and grain feeding on pasture for finishing. Last fall and this spring (1996) I marketed five head to individuals which were mostly repeat customers.
Last fall (1995) I had planed to establish 14 acres of Alfagraze and orchard grass pasture to provide grazing in 1996, but due to dry conditions was not able to establish until this fall. I obtained a good stand by disking twice and drilling with a conventional drill. I have received cost share from NRCS for fencing and a watering system on 65 acres. I have convinced NRCS to let me utilize burst-proof water pipe above ground instead of trenching 40 inches underground which has saved me and the taxpayer some funds. Eighteen stockers, mostly heifers, averaging 444 pounds were put through a leader/follower system on stockpiled fescue in the fall of 1995 and on other pastures in the spring of 1996. They were weighed four times to make sure they met my goal (700 lb average). See table 1 and weight chart. On 1 July, 1996, I started a grain feeding program on grass to get them to 900-1050 lbs by the middle of October utilizing as much forage as possible. Two smaller stockers were being crowded out at the feed bunk, so I sold them in the summer. The animals were hand fed to bring them up to full feed. By September 20, 1996, my animals averaged 909 lbs. See table 2 and weight chart. Once on full feed, I had planned to use a wheeled feeder to carry feed to different paddocks to utilize as much forage as possible, but due to a huge increase in corn prices, I continued to hand feed in bunks. By moving my feed bunks around to the different paddocks, manure was spread around my pastures increasing fertility and preventing a pollution problem in a small feed lot. This was easy to do with my big round bale mover. The more intensive grazing I do, the more I have to move my cattle up and down a blacktop highway running through my ranch to get to the different grazing cells. I have purchased cattle racks to move cattle on the highway during the grazing season which will greatly reduce the risk to my cattle and to the motorist. As the beef are ready to slaughter in the future, I will be able haul them to the meat locker in New Franklin, MO. for my customers. With the help of a Missouri Sustainable Grant, I am updating my corral on a concrete slab which was used as a hog operation in the past. I am using part of this SARE grant to assist in this update.
To develop a marketing plan, I visited Nick Arends at the Small Business Development Center who had many good suggestions. I attended the Entrepreneurs Day 1996 in Columbia to learn more about small business opportunities in Missouri and how other small businesses succeed. Key steps for starting a new business, Networking, Marketing musts, Internet and other free resources, Business plans, advertising on a bare bones budget were some of the topics covered. I advertised with a small business called (Way To Grow) that works with home based businesses which distribute 10,000 pamphlets around Columbia, MO each year, and advertise on the Internet. I also advertised on the Internet through COIN, my Internet provider. I put an ad in the (University Hospitals) classified ad sheet where my wife is employed. My present customers provide excellent word of mouth advertising for me. I have joined the Missouri Food Circle that promotes naturally produced food mostly in the Kansas City area at this time, but plans to expand through out Missouri in the near future. I had envelopes, business cards and a brochure designed and printed to be able to hand out to potential customers. For two weekends in September, I walked through some of the neighborhoods in Columbia, MO handing out over a hundred brochures and business cards to potential customers. I though I would obtain four or five customers from this effort, but it proved ineffective. I learned what does not work. It taught me who is buying beef , how they are buying it and who is not buying and reasons why. For my customers that buy my beef, I obtained some beef charts and recipes brochures from the National Cattleman’s Beef Association to help them learn how beef is cut and cooked.
The following people assisted me with my project:
– University Extension Melvin Brees (Farm Management Specialist) – provided assistance in project planning and evaluation and assist in a field day.
– Dale Watson (Livestock Speicalist) – graded and evaluated my beef animals after slaughter.
– NRCS personnel Steve Mauzey and Kevin Monckton – provided assisted in obtaining cost share and field day execution.
– Marilyn Gann – provided fliers and mailings for field days
Dale Watson (Livestock Specialist) helped me obtain grading information at the locker plant on my beef that was slaughtered in October. The following information is on the eight head I sold to individual customers.
[Editor’s Note: There are some tables that could not be posted online. If you would like to see these tables please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 800-529-1342. Thanks]
The cattle that I fed out three weeks longer had a slight increase in backfat and quality. Sense these eight head were hung at the locker for two weeks after slaughter, those with more backfat would have dried out less. This data tells me that I should have fed the first group as long as the last. Most of my customers that I have contacted after a few months said they were happy with this lean meat. Most of them know how to cook this leaner meat.
The following information is the financial data for my project that Melvin Brees helped me put into a presentation form.
I sold eight head of fat cattle at the New Cambria Livestock Auction and eight head to twenty different individual customers. Two heifers were kept to add to my herd.
I learned from this grant that marketing was a much greater challenge than I had anticipated. I was able to market only 8 head instead of 18 head to individuals. It was difficult to sell quarters or sides of beef because most people do not have large freezers. Another central Missouri rancher had better luck selling only 20-25 lbs of beef at a time. I will try this in the fall of 1997. Also if one wants to sell only to packing houses, he would have to feed his animals for another 30-60 days to have 650-700 lb carcasses. From the data, one can see that I could increase my income by over $10,000 a year if I could sell all of my offspring from my 55 cows each year. The disadvantage is one would have to have a walk-in freezer on the farm or a locker plant that could store the meat at a reasonable cost to have more time to market the beef. If more ranchers utilizing intensive grazing could fatten beef on forage with limited grain and sell to individuals, the impact would be tremendous. More forage utilization would be obtained, there would be less soil erosion because less corn and soybeans would be needed for feeding, and less pollution from cattle feedlots. Ranchers dealing directly with their customers could educate them as to what it takes to raise beef utilizing an environmental sustainable practice. One major problem I see in the future is the Meat Inspection regulations which might close down most of the local processing plants which would prevent me from selling to individuals. If this can be overcome, I feel that selling direct to customers has a bright future.
I had a field day at my ranch August 1, 1996 — Central Missouri Grazing Tour
There were between 70-80 people from nine different central Missouri counties.
Refreshments were provided by Extension and USDA personnel.
I presented my data on February 18,1997, to the Howard County Grazing Group.
This is in conjunction with Kevin Moores presentation of fattening beef on grass from Missouri University Forage Research Farm at the Commercial Trust community room.
Enclosed are the following letters and email from contacts made during my research for marketing methods and alternatives, my business cards, natural beef brochure, envelopes, beef recipe brochure, beef cut charts, my beef cutting instructions, my beef pricing information, tour flier/letter, advertising through classified ads, email sales and correspondence.