On July, 1, 2008, the Livestock and Forestry Branch Station at Batesville and the Animal Science faculty began a project to apply research-based management practices to demonstrate 300 days of grazing. The cow herd was predominately Brangus Balancer cross females (38 head) with a September 1 to November 1 calving season and a November 21 to January 2 breeding season. The calf crop percentage was 84%. The six cows that either lost a calf or were not pregnant were sold, and cows with young calves were purchased for replacements. Two Hereford bulls were leased and fertility tested prior to the breeding season. The bulls were in the top 60% of the breed for weaning weight and marbling EPDs.

The overall stocking rate was 3.4 acres/AU. The seasonal forage distribution was approximately 70% cool-season forages and 30% warm-season forages. The concept was to plan forage production in seasonal blocks of summer, fall, winter and spring to match the fall-calving herd.

The average adjusted 205-day weaning weight was 476 pounds and 462 pounds for the steers and heifers, respectively. The overall cow efficiency was 46.7%. Cattle were grazed from July 1, 2008, through February 20, 2009 (347 days). The average frame score was 4.1 for the steers and 4.3 for the heifers. Seventy-one percent and 29% of the calves were large and medium frame, respectively, and all but one calf was scored a muscle score 1. The overall cow efficiency was 46.7% (calf adjusted 205 days wt/cow weight at weaning). The cow and weaning weights are short of the production goal of 50% and 550 pounds, respectively. The calves were weaned and continued to graze until July 10, 2009. From mid-May until July 10, the cows and calves were grazed in a leader follower grazing program, with the calves grazing the higher quality bermudagrass and the cows following to uniformly graze the bermudagrass. The steers’ and heifers’ sell weight was 579 and 565 pounds, respectively.

Feeder Cattle: 300-Day Grazing Demonstration Budget - Did We Make Any Money?

Jugular blood samples were collected (April 2009) from the cows in order to determine pregnancy. Thirty of the 38 cows (79%) were determined to be pregnant. Once the calves were weaned, the eight non-pregnant cows were sold and replaced with eight
bred cows.

The projected and actual budgets are summarized in Tables 1 and 2. A number of cost items exceeded the projected budgeted amount. They included salt and mineral, veterinary medicine, fly control, sale commission, hauling, fertility testing bulls, replacement cows, lime, herbicide and miscellaneous. The salt and mineral cost exceeded the budgeted amount by 232%. This was caused by a price increase and overconsumption. Sales commission was 61% higher than expected because additional cows were sold to replace nonpregnant cows or cows that lost a calf. The actual cost for replacement cows was $12,500 more than projected because 14 cows were replaced (6 cows in the fall 2008 and 8 in the spring 2009).

Purchasing lime and herbicide was not in the projected budget. Lime was applied to the bermudagrass pastures (July 2008) in order for interseeding of clover, and herbicide application (February/March 2008) was required to control winter annual weeds.

Three cost items were lower than expected: supplemental feed, purchased hay and fertilizer. No additional supplemental feed (corn, cubes, etc.) was purchased. Eighteen days of hay was purchased, not 60 days as budgeted. Fertilizer was lower than expected because of the abundant amounts of rainfall. Other
actual cost items were very close to their budgeted amounts. Overall, total expenses were $5,035, or $132.50 per AU (28%) more than budgeted.

Feeder Cattle: 300-Day Grazing Demonstration Budget - Did We Make Any Money?

Due to the selling of more cows than expected, the total pounds of beef sold were 55% higher than projected (Table 2). The additional pounds of beef sold resulted in more actual gross income. Gross income was $9,408 or $247 per AU more than projected. Income over specified cost and income over per AU was $7,616 and $200.41, respectively, more than projected. This resulted in an actual head breakeven of $0.63, which was 17% lower than projected.

Source: Dr. Tom Troxel, Professor, Associate Department Head - Animal Sciences, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture