Can You Make Money Turning Cropland Into Pasture?

Current corn prices along with reduced availability of perennial pasture have some producers asking about the economics of turning cropland into forage for cow/calf operations. So three Nebraska Extension specialists. Jay Parsons, Mary Drewnoski, and Daren Redfearn, got together to answer these questions in a February webinar: "Will producing annual forages provide greater net returns than growing corn? "Can growing forages pay the cash rent on good crop ground?" "Is converting a pivot into perennial grasses for pasture going to improve profits?" The short answer to all these questions is "No." But that answer is qualified by assumptions that the Extension Specialists made when doing their analysis. They caution that there is a difference between "providing an answer" and "finding the best solution" for your operation. You might come up with a different answer by substituting your realities for the assumptions they made, so let's take a look at those. Their analysis was cost-based and included the assumptions that: land costs remain the same whether you grow corn or forage: ownership costs on equipment do not change (i.e. you don't sell the combine); and, a grazing day is valued according to pasture rental rates. They also assumed that the land being converted was productive corn ground (230 bushel average yield). Based on those assumptions they found that corn provides greater net returns than converting to annual forages, unless you're making well below $6

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