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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Rangeland Resources & Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #374208

Research Project: Adaptive Grazing Management and Decision Support to Enhance Ecosystem Services in the Western Great Plains

Location: Rangeland Resources & Systems Research

Title: Effects of long-term cattle market conditions on continuous season-long and rotational grazing system revenues

item WINDH, JESSICA - University Of Nebraska
item RITTEN, JOHN - University Of Wyoming
item Derner, Justin
item PAISLEY, STEVE - University Of Wyoming
item LEE, BRIAN - University Of Wyoming

Submitted to: The Rangeland Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/29/2020
Publication Date: 3/14/2021
Citation: Windh, J., Ritten, J., Derner, J.D., Paisley, S., Lee, B. 2021. Effects of long-term cattle market conditions on continuous season-long and rotational grazing system revenues. The Rangeland Journal. 42(3):227-231.

Interpretive Summary: Economic returns from different grazing strategies in semiarid rangelands should account for differences in the weight gains as well as the associated impacts of these weight gains on the price per unit (e.g., pound or hundredweight). Here, we evaluated gross revenues, net revenues, and total revenues from a five-year study in the shortgrass steppe where yearling cattle were grazed in a season-long continuous or a multipaddock adaptive rotational grazing strategy, both at the same stocking rate. Weight gains from summer grazing (mid-May to end of September) were consistently 11-16% less with the multipaddock adaptive rotational grazing strategy across the five years, but difference in gross revenues varied widely between the two grazing strategies. Over the five years, the season-long continuous grazing strategy returned >$20,000 more in total net revenues, a 6% greater return than multipaddock rotational grazing. A conclusion from this study is the suggestion that ranchers should determine their optimal ending weights and marketing time for yearlings coming off summer grass and use adaptive management as a tool to meet these goals rather than implementing a specific grazing management strategy.

Technical Abstract: In this study we evaluated the combination of long-term market conditions and the price slide in the cattle market on revenues associated with reduced weight gains from rotational grazing. We expected cattle coming off of the rotational grazing systems at lighter weights should sell for a higher price per cwt compared to cattle at heavier weights from continuous grazing. Weight gains were consistently 11-16% lower for the rotational compared to the continuous grazing treatment each year. Despite consistent reductions in weight gains with rotational grazing, differences in gross revenues per steer between grazing treatments ranged from $43.46 to -$5.72 across the five study years. Net revenue per steer and total annual revenue followed the same pattern as gross revenue. Cumulatively, we determined that the continuous grazing treatment resulted in a greater than $20,000 difference in total net revenues, or 6% more returns compared to rotational grazing, over the five years. One major consideration in adopting a new grazing strategy is understanding both changes in production and the related economic implications of those changes. Unlike most commodities, impacts to cattle production measures, such as weaning or yearling weights, cannot simply be scaled by a fixed livestock price; rather, the total revenues need to account for both the changes in weight and the associated impact to price per unit of weight. Further complexity is added as these price slide impacts vary by both geographic location and season. Rather than trying to determine which grazing strategy is ‘best’, it may be a better management strategy to determine the optimal ending weights and the time of year to market livestock to meet the goals of the operation. Then using adaptive management as a tool to meet these objectives on a case-by-case basis can help determine which grazing, and stocking, strategies should be used to meet both the economic and ecological goals of a ranch.