Producers See Huge Value in Livestock Grazing School

April 16, 2010

CALDWELL, Ohio – Livestock producers who have turned to an Ohio State University Extension forage management school that teaches the basics of rotational livestock grazing have increased their profits, improved production practices and extended their grazing season, according to a recent survey.

The survey, conducted by the Ohio Integrated Forage Management Team to evaluate the impact of the "Pasture for Profit" grazing school, revealed that participants increased combined forage production by 1,116 tons – a value of $89,280 at $80 per ton. In addition, participants increased their net profits by decreasing feed costs and fuel and increased the number of grazing days by 64 days per year. Those extra days could potentially reduce winter feed costs by $253,067.

"It's rewarding to see producers have success with the program," said Clif Little, an OSU Extension educator in agriculture and natural resources. "Rotational grazing has so many benefits: It helps protect the environment; increases production per acre, thereby increasing farm profits; and it improves water and forage quality. And the best part is that it's a socially accepted practice. People like to see animals outside, grazing on fresh forages. They see that as being healthy for the animal."

Pasture for Profit has been offered by OSU Extension for nearly 15 years. The three-day program, typically conducted in the fall, winter and spring, teaches a broad range of rotational grazing management techniques including fencing, paddock design, maximizing grazing pastures, forage selection, water management, pasture fertility, winter feeding, soil quality, and meeting nutritional requirements, among other topics.

The school is designed for any grazing animal including beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep and goats.

Little estimates that Pasture for Profit has reached over 2,000 producers across the Midwest throughout its history. The Ohio Integrated Forage Management Team has just recently begun conducting participant surveys to measure the impact of Pasture for Profit. The most recent survey, with a 60 percent response rate, was aimed at producers in eastern and southern Ohio.

The following are some additional survey findings:

• The four most-often listed benefits of rotational grazing are better livestock care, less stress, less labor and better management.

• 70 percent of respondents indicated that after attending the Pasture for Profit School they were able to extend their grazing season.

• 82 percent of respondents said they have made production improvements; 45 percent of these improvements were due to increasing the number of animals that could be raised and/or increased forage production.

• 55 percent of respondents indicated that as a result of attending the school they have increased their net profits.

• Net profits were increased 66 percent of the time by decreasing feed costs and fuel.

"Producers who have attended the school indicate that they think rotational grazing is a better lifestyle not only for them but also for the animal," said Little. "The system improves farm production, reduces feed costs and increases the carrying capacity of the farm."

Little said that producers are also interested in the practice because of environmental benefits of soil and water conservation. Their participation in Pasture for Profit makes them eligible for participation in the National Resource Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

"With the Farm Bill promoting EQIP there's an incentive to adopt the practice. We teach those techniques with Pasture for Profit and participants receive educational points toward EQIP that puts them toward the top of eligibility," said Little.

The Ohio Integrated Forage Management Team will soon offer an advanced grazing school to complement Pasture for Profit. In the meantime, interested producers can look for aspects of the Pasture for Profit curriculum at OSU Extension pasture walks, workshops and field days this spring and summer.

For more information on what the Ohio Integrated Forages Management Team offers, log on to http://ohioforages.blogspot.com/.

Author(s): 
Candace Pollock
Source(s): 
Clif Little