Over the years I have harped on the value of managed grazing for a number of reasons but one of the biggest is the gains in productivity.
Good managers nearly always triple or quadruple their per-acre production over time. The best also maintain good animal performance -- sometimes as good or better than it was with continuous grazing. Again, this shows itself over time as the grazier gets more experience and feel for the cattle and as the land gets better and more productive and more diverse in plant species.
When I was in Missouri last week I had a wonderful visit with Darrel Franson, who produces beef cattle on his farm near near Mt. Vernon.
Franson is a meticulous record-keeper and records analyzer who will be featured in the August edition of Beef Producer magazine for his grazing expertise.
I asked him about his pounds of beef per acre and he gave me a very good ball-park figure of 380 pounds. By the time I got home Franson had rechecked is records and told me his average for the last 10 years is 388 pounds of beef produced per acre, including cull cows and calves.
That is very respectable.
His stocking rate is about two acres per cow with fairly limited nitrogen per year of 60 to 80 pounds and no supplements. I consider stocking rate another worthwhile measure of productivity, depending on the level of inputs.
As Franson and I talked about productivity neither of us knew exactly where to find the pounds beef per acre produced by cow-calf operations. I know the production of some very well-grazed stocker operations but not cow operations. I did numerous searches on the internet and found nothing comparable, except recommendations for the best Missouri grazing operations to run no more than 2.5 acres per cow, on the average.
I asked Stan Bevers in Texas about his and found some interesting numbers. Bevers keeps what is to my knowledge the only remaining Standardized Performance Analysis database in the nation.
Bevers said the Texas average for cow operations, including ranches from East Texas to well into western Texas, is 56.4 pounds of beef per acre. This includes some pretty dry and extensive country.
The closer comparison would be East Texas, where the average is 78.6 pounds of beef per acre. Different soils, different forages, but similar rainfall.
That makes Franson's numbers pretty impressive and comparable to putting on a second or third shift in a packing plant. It uses the same plant/facilities, adds a few variable expenses but also doubles or triples production.
This raises the amount of production per unit of many fixed costs, thereby potentially increasing profit. If the operation is well run and costs are under control this has every probability of raising profit for such a cow operation.
Seems to me that's pretty hard to argue against.