Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: A Direct Comparison of Economic Returns for Dryland Corn and Big Bluestem Pasture in the Great Plains

Authors
item Mitchell, Robert
item Vogel, Kenneth
item Varvel, Gary
item Klopfenstein, Terry - UNI OF NE
item Clark, Dick - UNI OF NE

Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 13, 2004
Publication Date: April 29, 2005
Citation: Mitchell, R., Vogel, K.P., Varvel, G.E., Klopfenstein, T., Clark, D. 2005. A direct comparison of economic returns for dryland corn and big bluestem pasture in the great plains. Rangelands. 27:31-35.

Interpretive Summary: Corn production and perennial grass pastures provide the foundation for the agricultural industry in the central and eastern Great Plains. Our goal was to provide information to producers on the economic opportunities for alternative, sustainable uses of non-irrigated cropland. Dryland corn and big bluestem pastures were grown using best management practices on similar soils in 2000, 2001, and 2002 near Mead, NE. Costs of production were monitored for both production systems. Corn production averaged 85 bushels per acre and inputs averaged $127 per acre. Beef production on big bluestem averaged 405 lb of beef per acre. Amortized pasture establishment costs were $25 per acre, and annual pasture inputs averaged $38 per acre, resulting in total pasture inputs of $63 per acre. Net return for dryland corn averaged $48 per acre and net return for big bluestem pasture averaged $119 per acre. Net return for big bluestem pasture was 2.4 times more than dryland corn, and can be profitable in eastern Nebraska.

Technical Abstract: Corn production and perennial grass pastures provide the foundation for the agricultural industry in the central and eastern Great Plains. Producers seek the best long-term economic and sustainable use of marginal cropland. Our goal was to provide information to producers on the economic opportunities for alternative, sustainable uses of non-irrigated cropland. Dryland corn and big bluestem pastures were grown on similar soils in replicated trials using best management practices in 2000, 2001, and 2002 near Mead, NE. Costs of production ($ acre-1) were monitored for both systems and represent a combination of actual costs and published custom rates. Corn production averaged 84.9 bushels acre-1 and the market price averaged $2.03 bu-1. Corn production inputs averaged $127.40 acre-1. Beef production averaged 405 lb of beef acre-1 and average daily gain was 2.8 lb hd-1 d-1. Pasture establishment costs were $268.46 acre-1, and were amortized for 15 years at 5% interest, resulting in a $24.60 acre-1 amortization, based on an 80-acre pasture. Annual pasture inputs averaged $37.67 acre-1, resulting in total pasture inputs of $62.27 acre-1. Net return ($ acre-1) for dryland corn ranged from $35.76 to $57.78, and averaged $48.49. Net return ($ acre-1) for big bluestem pasture ranged from $35.72 to $163.57, and averaged $118.70. Big bluestem pasture returned 2.4 times more $ acre-1 than dryland corn, and can be profitable in eastern Nebraska.

Last Modified: 8/21/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page