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Research Project: Sustaining Southern Plains Landscapes through Plant Genetics and Sound Forage-Livestock Production Systems

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Title: Economics of no-tilling cereal rye pasture for stocker cattle grazing in the southern great plains

item BIERMACHER, JON - Noble Research Institute
item REUTER, RYAN - Oklahoma State University
item Moffet, Corey
item NYAUPANE, NARAYAN - Noble Research Institute
item ROGERS, JAMES - Noble Research Institute

Submitted to: Western Agricultural Economics Association
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/29/2018
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Problem Statement: Economics of no-till (NT) versus clean-till (CT) establishment of cereal grain (i.e., wheat, rye, oats) production in the southern Great Plains (SGP) has been evaluated extensively using grain data collected from agronomic small plot studies at experiment stations throughout the region. However, little attention has been given to the relative economics of NT versus CT establishment of cereal pasture that is used solely for growing beef cattle in the SGP. Annually, between two and three million acres of cereal (wheat, rye, oats, and triticale) pasture is established using CT establishment methods. Production expenses associated with CT methods are increasing, especially expenses for fuel and labor. In addition, environmental concerns associated with continuous annual CT establishment of cereal pasture on these acres are growing, including an overall loss of soil health, loss of soil carbon, nitrogen leaching into watersheds, and soil erosion. Despite the lack of economic information, production scientists, environmental groups, and consumers of beef advocate and promote NT establishment practices to farmers and ranchers in the SGP as a means to mitigate environmental concerns. Objectives: The objectives of this study are to compare the economics of clean-till (CT) and no-till (NT) establishment methods for establishing cereal rye pasture for grazing, and to determine how sensitive the results are to relative, incremental values of gain, input prices, and steer grazing days. Data and Methods: Animal performance data for beginning and ending body weight and date, average daily gain (ADG), stocking rate, and steer grazing days were collected from a four-year (2010/11 – 2013/14) stocker cattle grazing trial conducted in south-central Oklahoma. The trial was set up as a completely randomized design (CRD) with five ten-acre replicates of two cereal forage establishment methods, CT and NT. Preconditioned, mostly black hided sale-barn cattle (Bos tarus) (four-year average BW = 553 ± 103 lbs) typical for the region were used each year in the study following a put-and-take cattle management system. Enterprise budgeting techniques are used to calculate expected revenues, costs, and net return to land, management and overhead for each establishment system. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) is used to test the hypothesis of no difference in measures of animal and economic performance between the two methods. Sensitivity analysis is conducted to determine how robust the results are to changes in input prices, VOG, and grazing days. Results: ADG was slightly greater for the NT compared to CT (2.50 versus 2.44; P = 0.0022), but steer grazing days favored CT compared to NT (370 versus 343 days; P < 0.0001). Because of the extra grazing days, the CT method realized a greater total gain per acre compared to the NT method (463 versus 449 lbs/ac; P < 0.0001). Total costs for the NT method was lower than the CT method ($210 versus $245/ac; P < 0.0001). For a base-case VOG of $0.80 per pound for both methods, net return favored the NT method over the CT method ($149 versus $126/ac; P < 0.0001). The value of the average cost savings of the NT establishment method outweighed the value of the additional animal performance realized by the CT method. Implications: Results from this study provide economic support for the adoption of no-till establishment of cereal pasture for growing beef cattle in the southern Great Plains. Because no-till and clean-till establishment practices are substantially different, we expect that farmers will realize challenges as they initially adopt no-tilling methods. However, these challenges can be mitigated by working closely with USDA-NRCS, state conservation, and Cooperative Extension specialists, and with other farmers who have already adopted no-till methods in the region.