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Grazing Management By The Numbers

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Many livestock producers have opportunities to increase their animal numbers and pounds of sellable product per acre of land by improving the management of their grazing lands.

This in turn means more income to the operation.
Let’s set the stage for this discussion by establishing some baseline assumptions. One animal unit is a 1000 pound cow or five 180 pound ewes. It takes 12 animal unit months
of forage to feed one animal unit for one year. An average lactating beef cow needs about 3% of her body weight, or about 30 pounds of dry forage matter per day (1000 lbs. X .03 = 30 lbs per day).

So what would happen if you could increase the forage production by one ounce on each square foot of each acre of our grazing lands for the year?

What would that mean to your bottom line?

Each acre has 43,560 square feet in it and by increasing the dry matter forage production by one ounce on each of those square feet we would get 43,560 ounces of additional livestock feed. To take this even further, 43,500 ounces divided by 16 ounces gives us 2722.5 pounds per acre of additional forage. This amounts to 1.36 tons per acre of additional dry matter to feed our animals.

Now, if we take the 2722.5 pounds per acre additional forage we grew and divide it by 30 pounds of dry matter per day our cow needs, we find that we gained 90.75 additional animal grazing days per acre. This is equivalent to 3 animal unit months additional grazing for one cow or five sheep on each acre of grazing land we have. What this means is if we could increase the dry matter production on each square foot of our grazing lands we would be able to run one additional 1000 pound cow or five 180 pound ewes on each four acres of grazing land we have.

These numbers apply regardless of whether we are managing irrigated or dry land pastures. The only difference between irrigated and dry land pastures is that it is probably much easier to produce an additional one ounce of dry matter per square foot on irrigated pastures. By increasing your forage production by one ounce dry matter per square foot you have created an opportunity for producing one 500 pound calf (plus or minus) or eight to ten 100 pound lambs (plus or minus) or 5.4 tons of hay for every four acres you have in production. If calves are selling at $1.50 per pound then that 500 pound calf is worth $750.00, the eight lambs at $1.00 per pound are worth $800.00, and the 5.4 tons of hay at $150.00 per ton are worth $810.00.

If you would like to see if you can increase the production on your property by one ounce of dry matter per acre, call the Klamath Soil and Water Conservation District to set up an appointment to talk with one of the staff for free assistance with developing a plan.