To quote Dr. John Roche of Dexcel, (a New Zealand applied research organization), "Pennsylvania dairy farmers
have the potential to have dairy profits above $1,000.00 per cow at $12.00 milk".
Managed grazing systems will be the backboane of making it happen. Stored forage systems will always
be needed but should be used to suppliment the primary grazing system.
The key to profitable pasture systems is maximizing production and utilization of pasture that is, maximizing
the milk produced from pasture. The most profitable system will probably combine high stocking rates with purchased
feeds and will have moderate-yielding cows which calve seasonally.
These systems that rely heavily or almost entirely on grass might not be the most appropriate in the U.S.
where supplimentary feeds are readily available and milk quotas do not exist.
Northeast dairy & beef farmers can improve grazing profitability by following these simple guidelines:
1. applying adequete nitrogen and other fertilizers to grasslands.
2. offering suppliments during periods of grass deficit.
3. considering buying grain suppliments rather than producing - this may be more cost effective.
4. developing a simple feeding system, particularly for providing energy in the diet of the milking cows.
5. avoiding unnecessary capital costs.
6. researching appropriate pasture management strategies through your local cooperative extension.
Grazing/Pasturing provides several other advantages too!
It is the gold standard for cow comfort.
High forage rations reduce potential for acidosis, laminitis.
Vitamin levels are higher in fresh forages.
Cows are comfortable on grass.
Cows are in better physical condition on grass.
QUALITY OF FORAGE FROM HAY CAN RIVAL OR EVEN OUTDO CONVENTIONAL CORN SILAGE !!
Your Stocking Rates Need Adjusting?
Almost weekly, I hear statements like "Dad used to graze 100 cows on this pasture all season and now I run out
after four months with only 90 cows. What's wrong with my pasture?"
Often, there's nothing wrong with the pasture,
though many producers might increase pasture productivity by using improved grazing techniques, fertilizer and weed control.
Most often, however, the main problem actually is the cows or, more precisely, how we count the cows.
A hundred years
ago, most cows were straight English, often easy-keeping Herefords that seldom weighed over 1,000 lbs. Folks calved in April
and May so they started on pasture with about a 100-lb. calf.
Today, it's not unusual to have 1,400-lb. cows or even
larger with February calves weighing 300 lbs. when they start grazing.
That's a big change, going from a 1,000-lb.
cow with a 100-lb. calf to a 1,400-lb. cow with a 300-lb. calf. That's 1,100 lbs./pair vs. 1,700 lbs./pair.
tend to eat 10-15 lbs. of green grass for every 100 lbs. of body weight. So, today's cow-calf pairs eat almost 50% more when
they start grazing than the pairs of years ago ate.
Instead of worrying about stocking rate, consider stocking weight
as your pasture guide. Then, when you add better grazing management, fertilizer and weed control, your pastures will perform
even better than for your ancestors.
For more Timely Topics, visit beef.unl.edu/.
-- Bruce Anderson, University
of Nebraska agronomy professor