What is in this article?:
- Bob Price, Burwell, NE, Wins National Stocker Award
- Planned grazing is the key
- Refining the grazing system
- Start by knowing true costs
Planned discipline begets flexibility and stocker profit for Bob Price and Gracie Creek Ranch, BEEF magazine’s 2012 National Stocker Award honoree.
Planned grazing is the key
Price is the third generation to carve a living from growing cattle on grass. His daughter Lindsey Smith and her husband Clayton, who returned to the ranch a year ago, will be the fourth.
His grandparents, Dee and Elvon, started it all, homesteading in New Mexico in 1916, bartering for calves to grow. Price’s dad, Jim, continued with western cattle, as well as those from the Southeast before that part of the nation was discovered as a hot bed for stocker calves.
Over time, the family began leveraging resources, building the calves it would stocker. Then several years back, Price says they had too many cows and too many that didn’t fit the ranch. Plus, markets were favorable, so they sold the cows and turned Gracie Creek Ranch into a total yearling operation.
They start with the end in mind: a 9-weight steer to market at Bassett Livestock Auction in mid-summer from July to August. Typically, they start buying 5-weight calves in October, and finish up with 6-weights in later November or early December. That gives them a heavy stocker of 750 lbs. or so to begin the summer grass season.
Their meticulously planned grazing system enables them to graze most of the year, in effect, double-stocking the ranch.
“Some people’s definition of a proper stocking rate is to take all the grass that’s there,” says Terry DeGroff, who consults for the ranch through his Management Information Systems. As a consultant, DeGroff says he analyzes data from the client and other sources to better allow the client to make decisions.
Instead of taking every blade of grass standing, Price and his crew defer about 25% of the ranch during the grass-growing season – a different 25% each year. The standing forage they stockpile gives them winter grazing, which means hay and supplemental feed costs are significantly less than if they used all their grass during the season.
“You can increase the total production of the ranch overall through deferment,” DeGroff emphasizes.
Deferred plants build root strength and depth, making for more drought resistance. That’s one reason the Price family came to appreciate sandy soils. Price says the plant water cycle is more efficient, thereby increasing drought resistance.
“Our emphasis is on increasing the use of forage and decreasing the need for supplementation,” he says.
Gains during grass-growing season run 2 lbs./day and better. During the winter, Price targets gains of 1 lb./day to keep the cattle gaining, but for less total cost. When cattle do receive supplement, it is hay and a ration built around grain byproducts.