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Digging Into the Business of Custom Grazing

By   /  September 26, 2016  /  5 Comments

Meg is back with the first in a two-part series to help you get started in the custom grazing business.

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In order for custom grazing (or any type of contract livestock raising arrangement) to work out, bot
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About the author

I graduated from West Virginia University in 2012 with a degree in livestock management, and a minor in agribusiness. While at WVU, I won a statewide entrepreneurship competition with a patentable device I designed for video-assisted cattle artificial insemination. I then spent six months interning for grazing expert Greg Judy in Missouri. Now I run Rhinestone Cattle Consulting, helping new and experienced farmers build profitable mob grazing beef operations. I offer artificial insemination, electric fence building and graphic design services too. I'll travel anywhere in the 48 states for on-farm consulting and speaking at conferences.


  1. Lhagva Lhagvasuren says:

    Hi Meg,
    I love your article. My name is Lhagva, I’m writing to you from eastern Mongolia and I’m a person who trying to be a Single-Family Farmer. We have certain conflicts with the traditional pasturalism and modern approach of pasture, farming, overgrazing etc. Because the way we do live now for the most of the herders economically is very questionable (not profitable), but the custom grazing or cover cropping methods will be very difficult to bring on to the table. So I asking you please, could you help us out to figuring it out how we can try to do it. I can send you all our data and more information on that per Email. Thank you.

  2. Troy Bishopp says:

    Meg, If I could be so bold as to ask you to address the customer who doesn’t recognize the price point of grazing livestock and continues to want to pay a low fee but could see the benefit of paying 1.85/day (in the NE) for confinement feed and care. We’ve been stuck in the .75 to $1 per day scenario for years. What will it take to garner the confinement price? I don’t see a difference especially with a high level of management. I’m of the minority opinion that folks don’t feel like we should be compensated well or the grazing tradition is supposed to be low cost. With all the benefits of animals being on grass and highly managed within an HM mentality, the $1.85 is a no-brainer. Comments?

    • John Marble says:

      Good question, Troy, and one that I’ve pondered about myself. I believe there is an odd psychology of “fairness” at work here. The cattle owner knows that your cost of gain or cost of keeping the animal is vastly lower than the fellow who keeps the animal in a confinement situation. Therefore, it is only “fair” that you get paid less. This is obviously goofy thinking, but typical. I think one remedy is to begin transitioning from custom care to ownership. If your cost of gain is $.50 on grass, you should be able to make good return on investment, surely better than the fellow who owns the confinement yard.

    • Meg Grzeskiewicz says:

      Two thoughts:
      1) An owner who is dedicated to the holistic movement will A) understand the value of grazing and B) have a high-value market in which he will make a good buck selling his end product. Go after these guys instead of trying to convince the conventional/confinement guys how awesome holistic management is. They’re very rarely going to believe you.

      2) You can explain that you need to cover more overhead per animal, since you can’t fit as many animals on pasture as you can in a confinement barn. Grazing requires more maintenance of infrastructure, since you have many more water points and miles of fence. Possibly more labor to catch animals that need to be treated, since you have to round them up and walk them to a corral instead of just throwing grain down in front of a headlock. If grazing was easier than sitting on a tractor, everyone would do it!

      • Bruce Howlett says:

        On Meg’s point 1): those farmer owners who are committed to HM and have a specialized market are taking over additional land as needed, and generally are not looking for custom operators to take some of their cattle. The potential clients in the NE largely are, like Troy’s, confinement farms looking to expand and/or reduce replacement costs.
        They might not really know how much their replacements cost. If they truly understood that their replacements cost them $1.85/hd/day, then they would be very glad to send them elsewhere for $1.50/hd/day.

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