Florida's mild climate, together with its 50+ in. of annual rainfall, offers nearly year-round grazing – more so than in any other state except Hawaii.

One of the biggest challenges in launching Adena Meats’ grass-fed beef venture is developing most of its nearly 70,000 acres of pineland holdings into productive pasture. It costs $1,000/acre to convert pineland to pasture, says Mark Roberts, ranch manager. That represents another $60 million in development expense on top of the venture’s $148 million land acquisition cost.

Rick Moyer, Adena Springs’ cattle manager, declined to share his cost-per-pound of gain target. “We are still building and moving stuff around and planting where ever we can,” he says. “So we don't really know where our cost of gain is at this point.” Moyer is targeting a conservative stocking rate of 4 acres/cow-calf unit.

Converting the ranch’s stands of loblolly and slash pine to pasture is a 2-3-year process. If the land has standing pine, the timber is harvested and left idle for six months. Then field debris is chopped and left for another 6-12 months before being chopped again. Next, the stumps are pushed up with bulldozers and left to dry for two months before being raked up and burned.

Once cleared, work crew disk the field twice and plow down 1.5 tons of lime/acre, and then disk in a second 1.5-ton lime application; level the field with a land plane and the field is ready for planting. New pastures should reach full production two years after planting.

Though Florida’s Flatwoods soils can hold a lot of moisture, they are also highly acidic, so Adena Meats must sample pasture soils every year. Brood cows will be pastured primarily on bahiagrass, a perennial warm-season grass. Weaned calves will be moved to higher-protein “finishing” pastures seeded with a mix of clovers and annuals such as rye, oats, wheat, and ryegrass for winter grazing, and Alice Clover, millet, sorghum and bermudagrass in the summer.

Michael Fritz is editor and publisher of Farmland Investor Letter. Reach him at mfritz@mercator.co or visit www.farmlandinvestorcenter.com.


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