Key Aspects to consider for profitable pastures for animal production
Improved pastures account for more than half the cost of production of beef and provide most of their nutrition. Thus, it has a major impact on both expenses and income. The basic commodity is pasture, and animals are the harvesters or consumers. Efficient pasture production and utilization are essential to a profitable operation. The key to profitable pastures for beef production are discussed below.
- Know pasture options and animal nutritional needs.
Pastures vary as to adaptation, growth distribution, quality, yield, persistence, and potential uses. Also, various types and classes of animals have different nutritional needs. Good planting decisions require knowing pasture options for the land resources and nutritional needs of the animals.
- Establishment is critical.
Good pasture production requires an adequate stand of plants. Mistakes during establishment often have long-term consequences. Use of high-quality seed of proven varieties, timely planting, and attention to detail lead to establishment success.
- Test the soil, then lime and fertilize as needed.
This practice, more than any other, affects the level and economic efficiency of pasture production. Fertilizing and liming as needed help ensure good yields, improve pasture quality, lengthen stand life, and reduce weed problems.
- Use forage legumes whenever feasible.
Forage legumes offer important advantages including improved pasture quality and biological nitrogen fixation, whether grown alone or with grasses. Every beef farmer should regularly consider on a field-by-field basis whether the introduction or enhancement of legumes would be beneficial and feasible. Once forage legumes have been established, proper management optimizes benefits.
- Emphasize pasture quality.
High beef liveweight gains require adequate nutrition. Producing high-quality pasture requires knowing the factors that affect pasture quality and managing accordingly. Matching pasture quality to animal nutritional needs greatly increases efficiency.
- Prevent or minimize pests and plant-related disorders.
Diseases, insects, nematodes, and weeds are thieves that lower yields, reduce pasture quality and stand persistence, and steal water, nutrients, light, and space from pasture plants. Variety selection, cultural practices, scouting, use of pesticides, and other management techniques can minimize pest problems. Knowledge of potential animal disorders caused by plants can reduce or avoid losses.
- Strive to improve pasture utilization.
The quantity and quality of pasture growth vary over time. Periodic adjustments in stocking rate or use of cross fencing to vary the type or amount of available pasture can greatly affect animal performance and pasture species composition. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of different grazing methods allows use of various approaches as needed to reach objectives. Matching stocking rates with pasture production is also extremely important.
- Minimize stored feed requirements
Stored feed is one of the most expensive aspects of beef production, so lowering requirements reduces costs.
- Reduce storage and feeding losses
Wasting hay, silage, or other stored feed is costly! On many farms the average storage loss for bales of hay stored outside exceeds 30%, and feeding losses can easily be as high or higher. Minimizing waste with good management, pasture testing, and ration formulation enhances feeding efficiency, animal performance, and profits.
- Results require investments.
In human endeavors, results are usually highly correlated with investments in terms of thought, time, effort, and a certain amount of money. In particular, the best and most profitable pasture programs have had the most thought put into them. Top producers strive to continue to improve their operations.
to be continued……
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