Is Your Grass Making You Money?

Once you get your grazing organized (see how to do that here), you will see a lot of benefits. You will have more grass, more water, then birds, bugs, and wildlife will return. These are pretty cool benefits! Many would call this sustainable agriculture. There is another aspect of sustainability that doesn’t get much attention, though, and that is economic sustainability. I participated in Ranching for Profit's Executive Link program. It is for people who really want to make improvements to their operation and be held accountable. At most meetings, an industry leader is brought in to share some of what they are doing on their operation. At one meeting, Kit Pharo, of Pharo Cattle Company, spoke about his grass based cattle genetics & his ideas on how to raise good seed stock. What he had to say was quite interesting. However, the most interesting and profound thing he said was that for agriculture to be sustainable, it must first be economically sustainable. For a ranch to continue on, young people must want to take the operation into the future. Young people do not want to take over an operation that isn’t profitable because it is not fun to live in poverty. Kit’s revelation got me to thinking about the economics of our grass. I wanted to know empirically how much each paddock was producing economically. Over the course of several years I developed a spread sheet to give me that information and this winter I even added color! Pretty cool! In this article I wil

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4 thoughts on “Is Your Grass Making You Money?

  1. Here is the incredibly helpful glossary:
    SD (stock day)- the amount of forage a 1000lb dry pregnant cow consumes in one day
    SAU (standard animal unit)- the relative value for each class of animal in relation to a 1000lb dry pregnant cow
    SDA (stock day per acre)- the amount of forage taken/available for each acre of grass. Similar to bushels per acre if you were grain farming.

  2. Tom, I love the simplicity of the article. I had to be careful interpreting the acronyms. When “A” appears it sometimes means “animal” and sometimes “acre(s)”. Correct?
    I got lost in paragraph 8 when dividing $1/pair/day by 1.75 SAU and getting $0.57 SD. The arithmetic is fine but I lost the thread of the units. What is 1 SD? I want to be able to teach this to others.

    1. Your point is well taken Paul. It may have been better to provide a small glossary for each acronym. I will do that now, but first the math in paragraph 8:
      the basic grass unit is a stock day (SD). 1SD is the amount of grass a 1000lb dry pregnant cow will eat in one day. A 1350lb lactating cow with calf will eat significantly more each day. Research has shown that her stock day value or standard animal unit is 1.75SAU. When we were custom grazing pairs, we charged $1 per day for each pair. Since 1SD is less than the value of a pair, I have to divide $1 by 1.75 to calculate the value of 1SD.

      1. Thanks Tom. This made a big difference for me. I taught pasture management to a degree program in equine management at the University of Guelph’s Kemptville Campus for 7 years, before the U of G closed the campus in 2015. I used publications from Manitoba and Alberta depts of agriculture for calculations on stocking rate and density. I like your approach to financial analysis of pasture production. Since 2015 I edited and wrote a textbook, “Horse Pasture Management”. You can see info about it at https://www.elsevier.com/books/horse-pasture-management/sharpe/978-0-12-812919-7
        Feel free to email me directly with other comments.

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