Researchers from the Iowa BeefCenter at Iowa State University, Iowa State University Extension and Practical Farmers of Iowa recently completed a survey to profile the demographics and management practices of custom-grazing operations in Iowa and northern Missouri. The Custom Grazing Survey 2007, which involved interviews with 50 operations, gathered information about custom grazing regarding management practices, types of arrangements, rates being charged and what management items were included in those rates.

Researchers also looked at the roles custom grazing plays in those operations, whether operations planned to continue custom grazing, and what key components operators felt should be included in a custom-grazing operation. The operations surveyed included custom grazing for stocker cattle and also for cow-calf enterprises. Following are some key results relating to stocker operations.

  • In nearly all of the operations, the operator owned some of the land used for grazing, and about half rented additional land for custom grazing.
  • The size of operations ranged from 20 to 4,000 acres, with most falling between 200 and 750 acres.
  • For stocker operations, 50 percent of the leases were for one year at a time, and 38 percent were one group at a time.
  • For stocker operations, 60 percent of custom graziers were paid monthly, and 25 percent received an upfront partial payment, with the remaining balance paid to them at the end of the grazing season. Most arrangements also included some form of incentive pay.
  • The majority of stocker operations — 88 percent — had worked with the same customers for three or more years.
  • Among stocker operations, 38 percent used some rotational grazing involving four or more paddocks in their rotation.
  • Cattle owners lived anywhere from two to 1,500 miles from the custom-grazed pasture. Most stocker owners were in a 150- to 750-mile radius.
  • The size of stocker operations in the survey ranged from 200 to 2,500 head, with most falling between 250 to 750 head. Stocker weights ranged from 425 to 700 pounds and averaged 550 pounds.
  • For both the cow-calf and stocker operations, the operator made decisions about cattle rotation and movement during the grazing season. For marketing of stocker cattle, 50 percent of the cattle owners and 12 percent of operators made the decisions. In 38 percent of the operations surveyed, the cattle owner and custom grazier collaborated on marketing decisions.
  • Stocker operations were split half and half between verbal and written lease agreements.
  • Most of the custom graziers, and all of those who work with stocker owners, obtained their clients through word of mouth.

For the full report, follow this link (PDF format).