Location: Rangeland Resources & Systems ResearchTitle: Beef production and net revenue variability from grazing systems on semiarid grasslands of North America
|IRISARRI, GONZALO - University Of Buenos Aires|
|RITTEN, JOHN - University Of Wyoming|
Submitted to: Livestock Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/5/2018
Publication Date: 12/20/2018
Citation: Irisarri, G., Derner, J.D., Ritten, J.P., Peck, D.E. 2018. Beef production and net revenue variability from grazing systems on semiarid grasslands of North America. Livestock Science. 220:93-99. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2018.12.009.
Interpretive Summary: Prosperity of rural economies with rangeland as a primary land resource is dependent on sustainable beef production. These environments are often characterized by having high climatic variability which can markedly affect forage production. Here, we evaluated beef production (pounds/acre) and net returns ($/acre) for 3 grazing treatments (light, moderate, and heavy) using yearlings grazing from mid-May to October in shortgrass prairie across 15 years (2003-2017). We found that 1) variability in beef production across years was lower than forage production, spring/summer precipitation and net revenues, 2) beef production was 41% greater for the heavy grazing intensity compared to the recommended moderate grazing intensity across the 15 years, and 3) net revenue was also 38% greater for the heavy grazing intensity compared to the recommended moderate grazing intensity. In this highly grazing-resilient shortgrass prairie rangeland, the ecological effects of heavy grazing have only marginal differences compared to moderate grazing. The observed high variability in net revenues across the 15 years is associated with price dynamics in the livestock markets, and suggests that ranchers should focus on understanding agricultural economic principles, livestock marketing, and available options for reducing price risk. Enhancing the economic sustainability of individual ranching operations would increase the prosperity of rural economies.
Technical Abstract: Sustainability of ranches and rural economies in the Great Plains of western North America is contingent on the economic vitality of beef production in a changing climate. Our objective was to measure and compare the interannual variability of beef production (kg/ha) and net returns ($/ha) over the past 15 years (2003-2017) from grazing yearlings at three different grazing intensities (light, moderate and heavy) on semiarid shortgrass steppe from mid-May to October. Four useful insights emerged: 1) A ranking of interannual variability, from lowest to highest, reveals that beef production had the lowest coefficient of variation (CV = 17-29%), followed by annual aboveground net primary production (ANPP, 26-32%), spring/early summer precipitation (36%) and net revenue (107-139%).; 2) Beef production increased with grazing intensity during average and wet years, but not during dry years. Within any given year, beef production increased from early August to early September, but additional production became negligible from early September to the end of the grazing season. Overall, beef production was 41% greater for the heavy grazing intensity compared to the recommended moderate grazing intensity.; 3) Net revenue was 38% greater for the heavy grazing intensity compared to the recommended moderate grazing intensity, with opportunities for ranchers to increase net returns by removing yearlings from pastures in early September rather than the traditional October timing.; 4) ANPP to date in the growing season was positively associated with beef production in August, September and October, but with a steeper slope for the heavy grazing intensity, indicating greater sensitivity in beef production to ANPP at this grazing intensity level. Economic sustainability of beef production in this rangeland ecosystem is challenged by high interannual variability in net revenues. This variability, mostly attributable to price dynamics in the livestock markets, suggests that ranchers should focus on understanding agricultural economic principles, livestock marketing, and available options for reducing price risk. These efforts would not only enhance the economic sustainability of individual ranching operations, but also the vitality of rural economies.