A couple weeks ago, we asked readers to share custom grazing rates and locations. Here are some responses we received.
We're still collecting responses, if you would like to send yours. As before, it's your choice whether we put your name on the response, but we would like to have your approximate location. Send those to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I run 150 cows of my own, and this year took in 40 pairs to graze through the early summer.
I'm charging $25/month/pair, plus $2.50/month/pair for salt and mineral.
We really get only two months of grass growth here: June and July. By August things have dried up, and then it gets too cold.
I put my cows on summer range for five months, and then they get a couple of more months off the hayfields.
North central Oklahoma
I am paid $1.20 per cow unit per day (calf included). I provide pasture and full care. The owner provides cake, mineral and medicine. In the winter I provide hay. This would work on a moderate-framed cow, but it’s too cheap for big cows.
South-central South Dakota - $50 per cow-calf pair per month, $45 per cow-calf pair per month. Fencing and water provided. I provide all salt, mineral and cow care. Three-year lease. Dogs killed some of my cows, but oh man the grass is good. Mostly live water.
North-central Nebraska - $60 per cow-calf pair per month, and I pay the first $750 in water repairs and the owner pays the rest. I provide all fencing, salt, mineral and cow care. Three-year lease. Calves will weigh about 50 pounds less than on the South Dakota lease due to grass quality.
As for water, pricing in the Nebraska lease, the original agreement was that owner would turn on the wells and make sure they all pumped water and filled tanks....but he is old and lives in Colorado and has since become a friend, so I go ahead and do all that. Now it appears that the $750 is kind of treated like a "deductible." I pay for anything water-related up to $750 and he pays for anything beyond that for the grazing season.
Dan Spurgeon, Farmers Custom Angus, Sagle, Idaho.
I’m in north Idaho myself. Currently I’m charging $1 per head over weaning age. So calves run free. My cattle owners pay for mineral and I include fencing, watering, moving, and monitoring. I’m trying to balance it with the cost to have a cow on hay and haven’t adjusted my price in three years so I’m ready to study your input to make the adjustments. We feed hay a lot of months up here in the northern part of the state so I try to keep the feed bill balanced.
Dry cows or yearling heifers are $1.00 per head per day
Pairs are $1.30 per head per day birth to 300 pounds
Pairs with calves over 300 pounds are $1.50 per pair per day
This is for management and forage only.
Owner provides or pays for mineral and other non-standing forages that he may want cattle to have. Any sickness meds are paid for by owner. We eat labor for treatment. Death loss is by owner.
Our policy is when we have standing forages custom cattle are on site. when standing forages are gone the cattle go home.
Upstate New York
Two scenarios that I am aware of here:
1) $18 per month per pair. Pasture management, animal care, fence repair, minerals provided by cattle owner.
2) 95 cents per day per pair. Pasture management, animal care, fence repair provided by landowner. Mineral paid by cattle owner.
Stockers cost a sliding rate depending on performance (mineral paid by owner).
- <1.4 pound per day costs 60 cents per pound
- 1.4-1.6 pounds per day costs 75 cents per pound
- >1.6 pounds per day costs $0.90 per pound
In both enterprises, death loss is borne by cattle owner.
Kurt Dale, Southwest, KS
What I have started doing is charging by the cutweight per day on both cows and heifers. I usually don't take cattle in on gain anymore because there always seemed to be some chronics and poor doers that would kill a guys average. I am at 11 cents per cutweight per day (or 12 cents if I pay for the mineral).
This seems to be the fairest way for me as most cows do not weigh 1,200 pounds as the owner thinks. If it is younger stuff or pairs, I may do that for 90 days and then reweigh a few drafts of them to adjust the weight if I am keeping them longer.
I don't do a lot of custom grazing compared to some guys, but I have found that it is a good, less risky, way to get more hooves and pounds over the acres to generate some cash flow.
Eric Heins, Plainview, Minnesota (Southeastern)
I charge $1.00 per animal unit per day. I came to this rate with some help from our local NRCS agent. This seems to be in the ballpark for what beef producers are willing to pay. However, there are many that don't see the value in it. They want the pastures they can get real cheap and just put their cattle out for the summer, no rotational grazing. A neighbor down the road gets $1.50 per head per day for dairy heifers. He supplements them with silage provided by the owner. In my case the owner provides the mineral and any other needs the cattle may have other than the grass. I have all new fencing which my customer has been very pleased with and why he was "willing" to pay a little more than he usually would have.
I believe there is a market for this type of a service however pasture land is really lacking in my area. Most land was converted to tillable in the past decade and you can't cash flow custom grazing on what they want for tillable land to own or rent.
One thing that I have been trying to do to help market custom grazing is to compare the cost of grazing compared to buying hay. I think my initial math showed that if hay were more than $100 a ton it was better to graze but if it was cheaper it was financially more beneficial to buy hay, but I could be wrong on that.
However there is another comparison that I believe needs to be done. There are several farmers around me that have say 50-100 head of beef and also cash crop. Well they will have only 20-40 acres of pasture for their cattle and don't rotationally graze it. But they will put in lots of hay ground to make hay for their cattle and they are forced to feed hay almost year round. With cash crop prices down and the time and expenses it takes to put up hay, I believe it could be very beneficial to put enough of their land into grazing and avoid making a lot of hay and get a better return on the land. And I'm just talking financially let alone the benefit to the soil and cattle health. I was able to graze on my pastures until the first week of December last year and am hoping to make it to January this year. If you have any resources to help put this idea into real numbers I would love to hear about them.