As grain cost rise, cattle producers should look to their pastures
Grain prices are projected to remain high this year. While this boon to crop producers is putting pressure on livestock feeders, the upswing presents an opportunity for savvy cattle grazers.
“Rising corn and soybean prices, along with drought-tightened hay inventories and market uncertainty, are giving cattle producers ample incentive to maximize pasture production this grazing season,” said Jeff Clark, Market Development specialist at Corteva Agriscience. “Growing more, high-quality grazed forages presents an excellent cost-containment strategy. For 2021, it could pay off on the income side of the ledger, too.”
With market factors signaling continued support for grain prices, many ag economists point to opportunities to add pounds in the pasture this grazing season. For cattle feeders, buying heavier weaned calves and feeding less high-priced grain enhances profit potential. That likely means increased demand for heavier weaned calves and a chance for grazers to capitalize.
“Ensuring your grazing acres are at peak production is a good place to start,” Clark said. “Growing more grass and managing it well can help you ramp up per-acre beef production. Whether that’s through improved daily weight gains or by extending the grazing season, it’s hard to go wrong with lower-cost gains on pasture.”
Start Fast, Finish Strong
Season-long success in the pasture starts early and continues through the summer. It’s not a turn-’em-out-and-forget-it enterprise, Clark says. He offers several tips that can help maximize pasture productivity:
- Evaluate last year’s successes and challenges and adjust grazing plans accordingly.
- Scout early and often. Catch small problems, like thistle patches, before they become larger headaches.
- Don’t forget soil fertility. Fertilizing according to soil test and experience can increase forage quality.
- Control broadleaf weeds early to increase grass production and utilization.
- Go gentle on drought-stressed areas. Overgrazing through over stocking and grazing length will prolong drought recovery.
“Annual and biennial broadleaf weeds can green up even before pasture grasses. Once growing, weeds steal moisture, nutrients and sunlight,” Clark said. “Catching weeds early gives pasture grasses a competitive advantage.”
Early in the season means when weeds are small and growing. They’re easier to cover and control, and they haven’t robbed much from the grass yet. If weather or spring workloads conspire against early spraying, treatments — and their forage-boosting benefits — can continue into summer. Just remember to adjust herbicide rates accordingly, Clark said.
Using a residual product, such as DuraCor® herbicide, early in the season stops that first weed flush while providing control of those that germinate later. This extended control will help stop weeds throughout the season, preserving moisture and allowing grasses to get a head start on the weeds.
“Remember: Every day grazed is money in your pocket,” Clark said. “That rings especially true this grazing season.”