Making Missouri Mob Grazing pay – a laundry list

Posted: September 27, 2009 by Thrivelearning in Grass Fed Beef Cattle
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

While these aren’t commodity Angus, they are some of the best grass-fed beef cattle you can have – but this post today is about mob grazing, not selecting the best genetics for your cattle. That’s another subject I’ll weigh in on at some time – how we’ve gone away from the healthier, more efficient animals farmers used to breed. But the college guys are starting to figure this out with all their number crunching…

Now, yesterday, I promised you more from Greg Judy of Columbia Missouri. And I found a nice, short presentation of his over at the University of Missouri website. This was from their Missouri Forage and Grassland Council 2000 Annual Meeting, held October 30-31, 2000 at Lake Ozark Holiday Inn, Lake Ozark, Missouri – and since then I understand Judy has changed and improved his grazing techniques even more.

Leasing Land For Custom Grazing Stockers

Greg Judy
Greg Judy’s Custom Grazing Farms

Background I have been practicing management-intensive grazing (MiG) for six years, mostly with stockers. In the spring of 1999, I started leasing farms and developed MiG on most of them. Although I am in the custom grazing business, I am also employed full-time as a lab technician for an electric utility supplier.

Presently I have 600 acres with 350 acres in grass, located 20 miles northwest of Columbia. I own 200 acres and lease the remaining 400 acres. The leased land is split into five different farms which range in size from 40 to 150 acres. All my farms are rolling hills with 2 to 4 inches of topsoil over a heavy clay base.

The following is an outline of how I got started in the custom grazing business and some tips I have developed along the way.

Finding Land to Lease

  • When I first started, I took a platte map and drew a 5-mile circle around my farm. Then I concentrated on prospective idle areas with no fences. (This gives you more bargaining power for a cheaper lease.)
  • The minimum lease period is 5 years if you have to do any development to it. Try to get a 10-year lease if possible. The years can go by very quickly!
  • The land must have around 70% open area or it is not economical for me to lease it.
  • Large hay fields with no fencing are good prospects; the landowner is locked into haying it every year because of the lack of fencing.
  • A bonus is several ponds or a creek that runs through the property.
  • If the land has no water, I offer to build a pond on the property if I can deduct the cost of it off the lease. (Ponds add value to the property — emphasize this to the landowner.)
  • The more items that are in place on the property, fence, water, corral, etc, the less bargaining power you have.

Advantages of Leasing vs. Owning Land

  • No Farm Payment.
  • 100% of lease payment is tax deductible.
  • No land taxes.
  • Minimal equity needed to get into the grazing business.

Approaching the Landowner

  • Some landowners are very cautious at first, but just tell him you noticed the land was lying idle and ask if he would be interested in allowing you to graze it.
  • If you have a farm that is set up for MiG, ask him if you could show it to him. Make sure your farm is clean, no trash, just pretty pastures of grass and cattle.
  • Ask him what his plans are for the land: Did he buy it to retire on or as an investment?
  • Explain to him that your goal is to make his land look like yours. This is probably your most powerful tool!
  • Explain to him the concept of MiG. How you will rotate the cattle through a series of paddocks, allowing rest periods for the grass.
  • Explain the benefits it will add to his property: Increased fertility because of better manure distribution, more diverse grass species, less rain runoff, improved build up of organic matter in the soil, increased legume content, more wildlife and less brush.
  • Explain to him the sequence of events that will take place to put MiG in place on his land and that it will take two to three years for some land to show progress.
  • Explain to him that all ponds and woods will be fenced off to exclude livestock.
  • Explain to him that the value of his property will increase substantially as a direct result of your management.
  • Write a proposed lease and ask the landowner to read the contract, make changes, etc. Make sure both parties are satisfied before signing it.

Getting Started

  • Have liability insurance policy for all livestock. When custom grazing, the stocker-owner is usually responsible for the policy.
  • When starting out with an idle property, use the forage that is already there. I always run cows the first year to clean off the duff, along with lots of brush. By strip grazing you get better duff removal.
  • Learn the patterns the cows graze, and visualize where the paddock divisions should be placed.
  • I use high-tensile 170,000-psi wire with ratchets and a high voltage low impedance fencer. It is not a big deal changing a paddock division; just move one high-tensile wire.
  • Frost seed 3 to 4 lb red clover on all pastures.
  • Fence off all ponds and run a siphon hose over the dam to the tank.
  • Fence off all timbered areas.
  • Concentrate on improving the water supply and quality.
  • You can have the best grass in the world, but without a good water supply, the grass is useless.

Stocker Management

  • Take the stress off new calves by stopping fence walking. If calves are allowed to, they will walk themselves into a health wreck.
  • Make sure you see every calf eat and drink on arrival before you leave them.
  • Spend some time with them; let them know that you are not going to hurt them.
  • Start with 400-pound stockers, and hand-feed them for a week on paddocks to tame them down and train them to move.
  • All calves should have had their second round of shots when placed on pasture.
  • Use a Capture rifle to doctor any calves that are sick. This is a huge benefit, as you don’t have to get the whole herd up to doctor one calf.

Materials Needed

  • Small pickup
  • An ATV is a time saver: no ruts, handy for broadcasting seed, and a good vehicle to use when building fence.
  • Wire and posts
  • Miners light that fits on a hard hat. This is the one tool that I use the most because of my off-farm job. By having the light on your head, your hands are free to work at anything.

Tips for Keeping Your Overhead Low

  • No heavy metal machinery
  • No boy toys
  • Don’t buy anything that RUSTS.
  • No stock trailer and truck; hire this work out.
  • Loading facilities should be functional, not elaborate.

Good Investments

  • Water availability
  • Lime, P&K
  • Legume establishment

Landowner and Lessee Friendships

  • Some landowners, once they start seeing the results of your management on their property, get really excited and emotional. I’ve had a landowner ask where I could use a couple extra ponds; he built two right where I needed them!
  • Sometimes the more you do, the more the landowners want you to improve their land.
  • I had a landowner give me a turkey and ham for Christmas. He said, “This is for all the work and improvements you have done on my farm. Words can not express how happy I am with what you have done.”
  • I personally get a huge sense of reward from this kind of landowner satisfaction; you cannot put a money figure on it!
  • I had a landowner give me back a full year’s lease payment. He said that I earned the lease by the amount of work that I had done on his land.
  • A landowner changed my lease contract. I had a ten-year lease, and he gave me a lifetime lease (my lifetime) on his farm.
  • I give landowners a quarterly update on the progress that has taken place.

Final Thoughts and Comments

  • You need to set a goal. Start out by asking yourself, “Where do I want to be in five years?” Then write it down where you can read it everyday. This helps keep you focused.
  • This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. There is a lot of work involved to get all the proper elements in place.
  • Be innovative; always ask yourself if there is a better way of doing things.
  • Read all the grazing books you can such as Stockman and Grassfarmer.
  • You can pick up a lot of good tips by attending grazing schools and pasture walks.
  • You have to be 100% committed to making it work. The first year is the hardest, but the second year is a lot easier. Things start to fall in place as you go.
  • Hard work, along with good management, does not go unnoticed. You may pick up other farms just by people driving by and seeing the dramatic difference you have made with the idle property.
  • I have been offered several farms to graze strictly as a result of my progress on the farms I currently lease.
  • Keep the leased farms neat — absolutely no trash or idle machinery.
  • Manage the property as if your livelihood depended on it — it may someday!
  • I personally get a huge satisfaction out of taking a piece of marginal land and making it into a grass-grazing haven.
  • Sometimes we hear a lot about the doom and gloom facing farmers today; don’t get caught up in this treadmill. You control your own destiny. There is a lot of idle pastureland out there, and if you concentrate on being a good grass manager, in time, you will get all the land and cattle you want.
  • Go for it and remember to have fun on your journey!
Advertisements
Comments
  1. […] Making Missouri Mob Grazing pay – a laundry list Some pointers from a 2000 mob grazing presentation by Greg Judy of Columbia, Missouri – how to raise grass-fed beef cattle simply and cheaply. […]

  2. […] Making Missouri Mob Grazing pay – a laundry list Some pointers from a 2000 mob grazing presentation by Greg Judy of Columbia, Missouri – how to raise grass-fed beef cattle simply and cheaply. […]

  3. […] Making Missouri Mob Grazing pay – a laundry list Some pointers from a 2000 mob grazing presentation by Greg Judy of Columbia, Missouri – how to raise grass-fed beef cattle simply and cheaply. […]

  4. […] Making Missouri Mob Grazing pay – a laundry list […]

  5. […] Making Missouri Mob Grazing pay – a laundry list Some pointers from a 2000 mob grazing presentation by Greg Judy of Columbia, Missouri – how to raise grass-fed beef cattle simply and cheaply. […]

  6. […] Making Missouri Mob Grazing pay – a laundry list Some pointers from a 2000 mob grazing presentation by Greg Judy of Columbia, Missouri – how to raise grass-fed beef cattle simply and cheaply. […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s