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Heifer Grazing Compass Helps Farmers Make Profitable Grazing and Replacement Decisions

Photo courtesy of Grassland 2.0


To graze or not to graze?

The newly debuted Heifer Grazing Compass can help Dairy Farmers answer that question. This spreadsheet tool helps farmers predict and understand the cash flow and long-term financial outcomes of deciding to raise heifers on pasture. It can be used to help dairy farmers assess their options for raising heifers and by farmers outside of dairy who might want to start raising heifers on pasture as an enterprise.

Developed by the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and Grassland 2.0, the Heifer Grazing Compass compares the total economic implications of a farmer’s existing system with a potential pasture-based heifer raising system. It helps farmers answer questions like these:

• Can my land support the dry matter demand of my heifer herd?

• Is the new feeding plan sufficient for my heifers’ healthy development?

• What are the establishment costs of a pasture system?

• What is the operating expense and labor expense during the grazing season?

• What are the financial implications of my current heifer-raising strategy?

• How do the financial outcomes of the proposed pasture system compare to my existing strategy?

Reducing Replacement Heifer Costs

Beef farmer Jim Munsch, who is part of the team that developed the tool says using it might challenge how some folks thing of dairy heifer economics, “As operators seek ways to lower the cost of herd replacements, one effective option is using managed grazing as a feed source during the grazing season. The Heifer Grazing Compass can quantify savings in dollars and labor hours for a producer’s own land and animals. Using the tool you can easily see that the cost of managed grazing is nearly 3-fold less expensive than confinement.”

It’s Easy to Use!

The Heifer Grazing Compass was created, formatted, and protected, so that it does not require advanced computer skills to use. However, if you are unfamiliar with Excel spreadsheets, you should start by learning how to navigate a spreadsheet and how to enter data.

Click to Download

While the tool is free to access and use, the developers ask you to answer three questions and provide an email address. Your answers to the questions help them understand who is using the tool. They’ll use your email address to notify you when they update or improve the tool.

This tool was conceived and designed by Brad Barham, John Hendrickson, Connor Mulholland, and Jim Munsch for the University of Wisconsin as part of the Grassland 2.0 project. Questions or comments can be addressed to John Hendrickson at or Dr. Barham at

Coming This Summer: Beef Grazing Compass and a Pasture Management Compass

The Heifer Grazing Compass team is continuing to work together to develop more tools. They plan to release a Beef Grazing Compass and a Pasture Management Compass this summer. The Pasture Management Compass will be useful for any beef or dairy enterprises, as well as sheep and goat operations

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