Pasture in poor condition can support cattle and sometimes make a profit, but that doesn't mean better pasture isn't better.
"The environmental effects of pasture improvement are huge," says Madalene M. Ransom, an economist with USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), "but people don't always realize the economic benefits."
Ransom and Kevin Ogles, a USDA grazing lands specialist, have collected data which proves exactly that in work at the East National Technology Support Center in Greensboro, NC.
Ransom and Ogles define poor grazing land as having 50% ground cover with most of the good vegetation already eaten. Their definition of good grazing includes some rotation with 75% ground cover of grass only. Excellent grazing is 95% ground cover consisting of cover, grass, litter and clover, together with excellent rotation practices.
Based on case studies and conversations with Extension personnel, Ransom and Ogles show improvements that create excellent pasture conditions, decrease costs over time and increase animal weights and also profits by nearly 50% per pound of animal sold.
"Excellent grazing may cost money up front to install," says Ransom, "but it may be the most profitable by yielding the most benefits."
She says many producers fail to factor in lost profit opportunity.