RRC Ag Days: The Dollars and Sense of Grazing

Fort Macleod (Rural Roots Canada) — Internationally renowned grazing expert Jim Gerrish from Idaho says there are a number of ways an operation can make more money by changing grazing practices.

He says the first trick is to extend how long the cattle are out on grass.

“One of the most obvious ones is extending the grazing season because very often the most expensive part of being in the cow-calf business is winter feed costs,” Gerrish said.

READ MORE: BCRC: Carrying or Grazing Capacity

Gerrish says if the grazing season can be extended it reduces the amount of stored feed.

“Canadian ranchers have actually been working on this for a good number of years.  Some of the practices we use, south of the border, started up here in the north included things like swath grazing, bale grazing.”

He says increasing the number of livestock the pasture can support by increasing the carrying capacity of the land can help the profit margin if it is managed a certain way.

“It’s one thing to try and increase your carrying capacity with a lot of purchased inputs but very often the margin per acre does not increase.  But if you can increase capacity through grazing management than you will get more animal unit days (AUDs) per acres that lowers the overhead cost on every unit of production.”

He adds by utilizing time-controlled grazing practices, instead of just letting the livestock mow the grass right down can also help big time as well.

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Gerrish says there are two things that can really hurt your profitability.

“What does not pay, unless you are a very large operation, is owning your own equipment.   Contrary to what a lot of people seem to believe the larger the individual cow, the higher productivity of the cow, the lower whole ranch profit tends to be. So, big cows really don’t work.”

Gerrish spoke at the Rural Roots Canada Ag Days in Fort Macleod in February.