In 2024, cow-calf producers can enhance profitability through effective forage management. The key lies in maximizing grazing while minimizing costly feeds. With cattle prices on the rise, careful cost management remains essential, and feed costs, being the largest expense, demand attention.
Central to cost-effective cow-calf production is efficient use of natural grasses. This year, producers should aim to maximize grazing, reducing the dependence on harvested forage and supplemental feeds. Proper grazing management is not just a short-term solution but a strategic approach for future forage needs.
Producers can utilize strategic fertilization for introduced forages to improve their yield and quality. For native ranges, deferred grazing can conserve forage for later periods. Crucial to this approach is understanding the diverse forage types, climate, and soil conditions, and setting realistic stocking rates based on forage assessments.
The difference in costs between pasture-fed and supplemented feeds is stark. Grazed forage proves much more economical than harvested hay. Unfortunately, convenience often leads to poor pasture management, resulting in the need for more hay, typically of lower quality.
This year, a shift in focus is needed. While round bales offer convenience, they can encourage wasteful practices. It’s essential to balance the convenience of round bales with effective management to avoid unnecessary costs.
By doing so, producers can add significant value to each cow, potentially increasing profitability by $150-$250 per head.