Managed grazing is an effective option for beef producers in Wisconsin. This system, which dramatically increases yield and quality of pasture and focuses on reducing production costs, has potential to improve profitability of beef operations of all kinds. Managed grazing is a size-neutral, flexible practice that can be adapted to any farming system and can be implemented with little cost in equipment and time.
Managed grazing involves dividing large pasture areas into smaller paddocks of a few acres in size and rotating the herd from one paddock to the next, with residence times in each paddock of a few days. Pasture productivity is often two or three times higher as a result of the rest period provided between grazing events in each paddock. Improved pasture nutritional quality allows for higher weight gains with less supplementation. The substitution of pasture harvested by the cow for mechanically harvested feeds can reduce production costs significantly for dairy producers. There is no similar dataset on cost of production for beef farmers, but the 2007 Census of Agriculture provides information that suggests that similar cost savings can be achieved.
This report summarizes recent surveys of beef producers using managed grazing. Two sources were used for the study. The first is the 2007 Census of Agriculture. The second data source was an original survey designed and sent out by the authors in partnership with the Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service in early winter, 2010.