While a clear need for more managed grazing systems is long overdue for beef producers, many remain hesitant.
In a recent #HayTalk tweetchat we discussed continuous vs. rotational grazing systems. Many were quick to acknowledge the potential economic plusses of rotational systems of cost savings and more income through increased stocking rates and forage utilization. But it was apparent that the challenges of added costs in fencing, water, lanes, and more livestock to move from a continuous to rotational system were stopping some from making this transition. Along with these costs, the added time investment to move cattle more often can sometimes be a deterrent.
The question many beef producers really want to know is simply, "Is rotational grazing profitable?" While this sounds like a simple question, the answer leaves much explanation to be desired.
The honest answer is: "It depends."
It is impossible to predict how profitability on your operation might change from implementing a rotational system using with a blanket statement. Too much variation among farms exists to generalize. The economics of this management change depend on your farm plan. In the end, rotational grazing may work for some farms and not for others.
One method used to evaluate a rotational grazing system for a particular operation is a partial budget. This method allows for the comparison of increased costs and decreased revenue to increased revenue and decreased costs.
Two excellent example case studies of this can be found in extension publications from University of Kentucky and Mississippi State University Extension. Additional resources on the economics of rotational grazing and can be found here and partial budget analyses for farms are here.
While the economics will vary from one operation to the next, it is important that producers take the time to analyze their situation to determine whether a switch to a rotational system would be economically beneficial for their farm or ranch.
For producers seeking to increase stocking rates on their operations, this transition could prove to be a smart business move in the long run. Research has proven rotational grazing systems allow for increased forage utilization and higher animal output per acre.