Released February 2, 2009
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. - Feeding livestock when forage is not available is often an expensive challenge for producers. But a new publication developed by forage and grazing specialists in five states addresses this issue that can affect the profitability of livestock operations. “Extending Grazing And Reducing Stored Feed Needs”, was written by Don Ball at Auburn University, Ed Ballard retired from the University of Illinois, Mark Kennedy with Natural Resources Conservation Service in Missouri, Garry Lacefield at the University of Kentucky, and Dan Undersander at the University of Wisconsin.
The authors, who collectively have almost 150 years of experience working with livestock producers, agree feeding animals when forage is unavailable is the greatest expense associated with livestock operations.
Ball, who is an Auburn professor of agronomy and a specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, says that the percentage of expenses associated with providing hay or other stored feed is usually the single best indicator of a livestock operation’s profitability.
“The reason is that the cost per day or per animal of providing pasture forage is usually no more than about one third of the cost of stored feed,” he explains.
There are other reasons why it makes sense to keep animals grazing as much of the time as possible. • Concentrating animals for feeding simultaneously concentrates manure and nutrients. • Feeding animals on a sod often results in damage to the land. • When forage is harvested by grazing animals, less labor is required, weather is rarely a concern, and there is less likelihood of damage to the environment. • Pasture forage is generally of higher quality than most hay.
Ball says with the recent sharp increases in livestock production inputs, producers should find this publication both timely and useful.
While the best techniques to reduce stored feed needs vary with geographic region, type of farming operation, and other factors, this publication outlines strategies that can be used to extend grazing and to increase profit. It was developed under the auspices of the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, a consortium of livestock- and forage-oriented organizations.
The 8 ½ X 11-inch color publication is currently available only in pdf format. It can be found at these Web sites. • http://www.livestocktrail.uiuc.edu • http://www.uky.edu/Ag/Forages • http://agebb.missouri.edu/mfgc • http://www.uwex.edu/ces/forage • http://www.alabamaforages.com.
Ball says in the near future hard copies will be available and distributed in a number of ways, including by Extension forage specialists, as well as by NRCS and various other GLCI organizations.