Is Where to Cut Costs the Right Question?

Enhance Your Grazing Knowledge: This was the title of a grazing conference that I had the opportunity to be a part of on Mar. 16 and 17. This conference was sponsored by the Arkansas Grazing Lands Coalition and due to the demand was held in two locations. Thursday the 16th we were at Arkansas Tech University’s Ozark Campus and on Friday the 17th we were at the U of A Community College Campus in Hope. A lot of driving in a short time but the attendance on both days made it all worthwhile.

There were seven presentations in total each day, two on grazing practices, one on Marketing, one on a grant proposal and three on the business side of our livestock operations.

The most interesting for me was given by Wes Tucker, Agriculture Business Specialist, University of Missouri Extension called, “Calculating Your Real Cost of Production – Can You Survive Lower Prices?”

According to most experts, cattle prices have not yet reached the bottom. Again, according to most experts, the main remedy available to those of us who are trying to make a profit is to cut production costs. The question then becomes what and where to cut.

But is this the right question?

Maybe the question should be, “Are we doing enough to utilize the resources available to us?”

Now I know that this may upset some folks, but on our place we do not use mob grazing to the extent that we allow land to be without livestock for long periods of time. It is not practical or profitable for us to let a piece ground stand empty of livestock any longer than it takes for the grass to recover from the last grazing. It is possible, without question, to increase the stocking density with improved grazing management and it has worked very well for us. It makes perfect sense to us that the more grass we grow the better it will be for us only if we get the full use of that grass. It also makes perfect sense to us that the more the grass is used the lower the production costs.

In our part of the world (Louisiana) it is a common practice to give up the last 30 or 40 days of grazing ryegrass to allow the grass to grow to the height that is desired to make hay. If the cow days given up were to be calculated I believe it would surprise some folks just how many days of grazing they are giving up for a few rolls of hay.  Growing ryegrass will do any class of livestock more good than the best hay that can be put up down here. And it will always be cheaper to let the cattle harvest the grass than it will ever be to cut it and haul it to them.

It cannot be argued that there are places that all of us can cut costs. But before we go on some cost cutting rampage it may be more beneficial for all of us to take a hard look at what we are doing and concentrate on getting the most return on every dollar spent.

What do you think?

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