A nugget in a slanted article about farming

Posted: August 23, 2005 by Thrivelearning in Grass Fed Beef Cattle
Tags: , , , , , ,

The key point here is whether it is still cheaper to raise cattle for two years on grass, or farm with chemical fertilizers (and mechanical, fuel inputs) and feed corn to feedlot cattle which are ready 8 months earlier. Means you have income every year from that year’s cattle, not a continuing investment – the longer the runway, the more chances that the plane doesn’t take off.

“With corn yields exploding, it was cheaper to fatten cattle in the feed lot than off grass. Breeders paid more attention to the yields butchers could extract from a beef carcass than to their live animal’s hardiness. Disease pressure in crowded feedlots was alleviated with the adulteration of the feed with antibiotics.

Meat got cheap, middlemen got rich, and grass-based cattle ranching entered a long economic decline.

Back on the farm, the high nitrogen fertilizers applied to the corn fields burned up the micro-organisms that had contributed to soil health and made grain farmers dependent upon chemical inputs for their fertility.”>Andy Griffin: Down on the Farm A brief history of beef: From prairies to corn to bombs February 9, 2005: “With corn yields exploding, it was cheaper to fatten cattle in the feed lot than off grass. Breeders paid more attention to the yields butchers could extract from a beef carcass than to their live animal’s hardiness. Disease pressure in crowded feedlots was alleviated with the adulteration of the feed with antibiotics.

Meat got cheap, middlemen got rich, and grass-based cattle ranching entered a long economic decline.

Back on the farm, the high nitrogen fertilizers applied to the corn fields burned up the micro-organisms that had contributed to soil health and made grain farmers dependent upon chemical inputs for their fertility.”

This is slanted to Hades and back, but an interesting quote overall.

If you were to raise only grass-fed beef, the probable strategy would be to geld the bulls into steers and release them back into the herd, once weaned. Take the heifers and sell them either as feeders or as heifers for breeding by others. Means you’d be keeping half your progeny on your pastures. Question is how much your crop land would generate in terms of pasture compared to farming it for corn and beans. Just a math problem, based on average hay versus corn yields. But if a farmer is raising corn and beans anyway, with cattle being only a part of his farm income, then taking a bit of this to feed his cattle would make sense.

We have a max of about 20 head on the land we can use for pasture, with about 60 acres arable for beans and corn. Probably it would be cheaper in terms of input to simply go to pastures all around and sell the excess hay we raise, leaving the cattle to winter forage on those hay pastures and fertilize them as they go. But I’ll not throw the bathwater and baby out yet until I can make economic sense of it. Right now, our corn and beans are the least profitable, as I’ve figured out how to make our own fat-cattle food with just grain corn and soybeans (plus some minerals). Once I’ve adjusted back to saving our own seed and changed my rotations to get legumes back into nitrogen fixing and so able to cut well back on nitrate fertilizers, I’ll be able to see what can be done on that other side of the farm. Until then, these people crying only for grass-fed beef can keep crying. The buck talks.

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Comments
  1. […] A nugget in a slanted article about farming The key point here is whether it is still cheaper to raise cattle for two years on grass, or farm with chemical fertilizers (and mechanical, fuel inputs) and feed corn to feedlot cattle which are ready 8 months earlier. […]

  2. […] A nugget in a slanted article about farming The key point here is whether it is still cheaper to raise cattle for two years on grass, or farm with chemical fertilizers (and mechanical, fuel inputs) and feed corn to feedlot cattle which are ready 8 months earlier. […]

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