Tag Archives: environment

Profitable Ranch Strategies

Although Jim’s article in On Pasture is specifically geared towards livestock/pasture management, the principles can easily be applied to any business.

 

Kick the Hay Habit – Jim Gerrish’s Tips for Getting Started

By   /  September 17, 2018  /  No Comments

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This week’s Classic by NatGLC is from Jim Gerrish. Jim will be speaking about Grazing Lands Economics at the National Grazing Lands Conference in Reno in December, so we thought you’d like to have an idea of what he might cover. Jim is one of over over 50 producers who will be part of the conference talking about innovative grazing management. We hope you’ll join us! Register before October 16 to get the reduced rate of $395, and bring a friend or spouse with you for just $175 more.

Hay feeding still ranks as one of the top costs of being in the cow-calf business in the U.S. The good news is we do see more and more livestock producers ‘Kicking the Hay Habit’ with each passing year. There is much more to kicking the habit than just deciding one day that you’re not going to feed any more hay. It usually takes several management changes to get there.

Here are what I am seeing as the top five moves for getting out of the hay feeding rut.

1. Have a plan for year-around grazing.

This doesn’t mean just hoping you have some grass left over in the fall to use during winter. It means making a critical evaluation of all of your forage resources and mapping out when they can be used most optimally. Develop a calendar of when your stock are going to have their highest and lowest demands. As an industry we have given a lot of lip service to matching forage and animal resources, but the majority of ranchers still do a pretty poor job of implementing a sound plan.

2. Change your calving season to a less demanding time of year.

It is much easier to graze a dry, pregnant cow through the winter than a lactating mama. For many of today’s moderate to high milk producing beef cows, daily forage demand at peak lactation is 50-80% higher than when she is at dry, pregnant maintenance. Late spring or early summer calving seasons work well in a lot of ranch country once you change your mind about a few things. I’ve met very few ranchers who switched to later calving who ever went back to winter calving.

3. Make sure your cattle match your environment and climatic conditions.

You really want your cattle to survive and thrive on the native resources of your ranch. The more petroleum and iron you put between the sun’s solar energy and your cow’s belly, the less profitable you are likely to be. Cattle should be able to earn their own living. You shouldn’t have to earn it for them. Consider every head of cattle on your place to be a ranch employee. Your primary job as manager is to create a working environment for your employees to do their job.

4. Manage all of your pasture and rangeland more intensively.

CP snow grazing Oct 26This does not mean graze it more intensively, this means manage it more intensively. If you do, you will get more forage production and greater carrying capacity from your land. Simply rationing out what you are already growing is one of the easiest places to pick up more grazing days from every acre. One of the strongest arguments I can make for Management-intensive Grazing (MiG) in the summertime is to create more winter pasture opportunities.

5. Change range use from summer grazing to winter grazing.

In most environments with degraded rangeland, switching to predominantly winter use is a great strategy for improving range condition. Many public lands offices are very willing to work with ranchers on this kind of positive change. We do see some agency offices and employees who drag their feet on making any kind of change, but most are willing to work with you if you have a grazing plan that will help them meet their conservation goals.

IMG_9954You may not need to make all these changes in your operation. It depends on where you are right now and where you want to end up being. While some operations go cold turkey and try to make the entire shift in a single year, it may be easier to make the transition over 3 or 4 years. You will take some learning and adjustments to get comfortable with the new approach. Your livestock will also need to adapt to the new management regime.

Most beef herds in the US and Canada are made up of cows that are too big and have too much milking ability to live within the resource capability of the land base. Winter grazing is a lot easier with the proper type of cow on your place. Making the switch in calving season might be as easy as just holding the bulls out for a couple extra months. Changing cow type to a more moderate framed and lower milk producing animal will take quite a bit longer.

The key point is to have a plan for making the transition with a clear target of where you want to go.

Thanks to the National Grazing Lands Coalition for making this article possible.

We hope you’ll join the On Pasture crew at this year’s conference in Reno. We love it because there are so many producers sharing their experience from all across the country. We always learn a lot! Remember – registration goes up to $475 on October 16!

 

 

Thanks to the On Pasture readers providing financial support.

Can you chip in? To be sustainable, we need a $15,000 match from readers to make our grant happen this year. If it’s an option for you, consider becoming an “Ongoing Supporter” at just $5/month. Being able to show that kind of support is especially helpful when we’re approaching outside funders.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jim Gerrish is the author of “Management-Intensive Grazing: The Grassroots of Grass Farming” and “Kick the Hay Habit: A Practical Guide to Year-around Grazing” and is a popular speaker at conferences around the world. His company, American GrazingLands Services LLC is dedicated to improving the health and sustainable productivity of grazing lands around the world through the use of Management-intensive Grazing practices. They work with small farms, large ranches, government agencies and NGO’s to promote economically and environmentally sustainable grazing operations and believe healthy farms and ranches are the basis of healthy communities and healthy consumers. Visit their website to find out more about their consulting services and grazing management tools, including electric fencing, stock water systems, forage seed, and other management tools.

Unexpected “Treasures”

For some reason, farmers of old (and, sadly, probably some still) thought that throwing old metal farm implements, myriads of rolls of barbed wire or woven wire in ditches, along with old hedge posts would somehow magically make the ditch stop washing.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  However, it could be said that throwing trash in the ditch answers men’s idea of ‘cleaning’ sort of the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ that women simply cannot fathom.  It’s still there for goodness sake!

Blessed with incredibly fine weather and a wee bit of time and some great help last week and after owning this property for about 26 years, this 50 foot stretch of ditch had the metal pulled out.  Because of the junk, the water simply pools and won’t allow healing.  Once I graze the pasture down this winter with my cows, I’ll burn all the wood trash and cut down as many rubbish trees as necessary to allow this ditch/draw to grass over and heal, so erosion will STOP!

What a surprise to find these fine implements stacked alongside the ditch – most are in decent working order, though too antiquated to be useful except as yard ornaments.

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Numerous heavy rolls of woven wire with farm implements loaded on the back.  It took the three of us with pickup, machinery mover, tractor and loader about 3 hours to clean it out of the ditch.  Environmentally, it’s the right thing to do, but putting a pencil reveals high costs and no income side to this type farm improvement project.
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Son, Dallas, loads the old horse drawn seated one bottom plough.

 

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Two antique harrow sections; one of them is in excellent condition.
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Cute horse drawn cultivator.
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This is likely a walk behind one bottom plough.  It’s missing the wooden handles.
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One of at least 20 big rolls of woven wire buried in the mud and muck, this one even had small trees and multiflora rose grown up through.
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Brett and I worked together to wrap log chains through the center of each roll, Dallas pulled them out with the tractor, then smashed them flat with the front end loader.  Later, we would pack two or three of them in the loader and Dallas would load them onto the machinery mover (trailer).

 

 

Farm Scrap

One of the best environmental activities the federal government could assist, if it must assist, is providing a short term subsidy for scrap metal.  This one thing could clean up farms, ranches, dead car lots, any scrap metal lying around.  Generations of farm rubbish has been thrown in ditches and draws and would be cleaned up and turned into cash.  Win – win for environment and farmers, but not the third win for new metal producers: they would take a short term hit in sales that would definitely hurt.

However, for the past several years, scrap metal prices have moved between 2 cents a pound to its current 4 cents a pound here locally.  ($80/ton)  Clearly not enough to make it worthwhile to load it, strap it down securely, drive 30 minutes to the nearest facilty, then unload it by hand as well.

Cheers!

tauna

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I loaded this bit in about 30 minutes.  I weigh the truck, load, weigh the truck loaded, strap it down tight, then drive to Chillicothe, MO about 30 minutes away.  This load weighed 775 lbs and only yielded $31.  Sad, sad.