James Pinsky: Hay doesn’t have to eat up profits

Say hay (cha-ching) in the country and folks are more likely to clinch their wallets than flash you a smile.

It’s not that country folks are impolite. It’s just that word – hay (cha-ching), and what it means to a farmer’s bottom line.

Every time a cow, horse or sheep takes a mouthful of the stuff, the hay (cha-ching) takes a bite out of the farmer’s profit margin. Hay (cha-ching) costs add up quickly.

Hay (cha-ching) costs don’t have to eat all your profits. In fact, if you are willing to subscribe to change, there’s a good possibility you could keep a few more dollar bills in your wallet because Graze 300, one of the newest programs coming out of your local Virginia Cooperative Extension Office, can help put a muzzle on your feed cost’s appetite.

Graze 300 is a program that teaches the use of best management practices necessary to extend your livestock’s annual grazing periods to 300 days, or beyond. If your animals can successfully graze nearly year-round, then the need for you to supplement feedings with hay (cha-ching) drops and your profit margins rise. According to Corey Childs, a Virginia Cooperative Extension unit coordinator, the Graze 300 program gives farmers different ways to increase profitability and decrease carrying costs because feed is a farmer’s No. 1 expense.

If you’re on the fence about Graze 300 or any other pasture management style program to feed your livestock because you think it’s not for you, there are a few things to consider, according to grazing consultant John Repair. “Grazing is as much art as it is science because grazing schemes and management styles have to fit your management abilities and desires.” In other words, there’s more than one way to feed a cow and learning how to start or maintain a pasture rotation program will vary not just on what kind of farm you have but on your abilities, your personality and your financial support.

It gets better, folks. By adopting a Graze 300 pasture management system, not only does it help your wallet but it helps your land environmentally.

“Better grazing management will lead to more diverse forage having higher nutritional value, improved soil health and structure, and improved nutrient recycling,” said Mike Liskey, district conservationist, Natural Resources Conservation Service. “More rainfall and snow melt will soak into the ground to be used by the plants. All of these benefits are as good for the environment as they are the farmer’s bottom line.”

Save money, and improve my land’s quality – at the same time? Tell me more about this Graze 300 … absolutely.

Better yet, the Virginia Cooperative Extension office in Shenandoah County just created a network about Graze 300 for local farmers and experts called the Graze 300 VA Grazer Group, and their next meeting is 1 p.m. March 24 at the Strasburg Community Center, 726 E. Queen St., Strasburg.

According to Bobby Clark, senior Virginia Cooperative Extension agent, Shenandoah County, some of the topics addressed in this meeting include but are not limited to how to stockpile early summer growth for use in July and August, extending the grazing season through the dry years, how rotational grazing improves both productivity and efficiency, getting off to a good start in the spring and how cattle perform on the Graze 300 system.

“Anyone interested in expanding or improving the grazing management of their livestock is welcome,” said Clark, who added that this group will be organized under the premise of the Graze 300 VA program that is being organized in the northern valley and piedmont region of the state.

For more information about the Graze 300 VA Grazer Group, visit Bobby Clark at his Shenandoah County Office at 600 N. Main St., Suite 100, Woodstock, or call him at 459-6140 or by email at raclark@vt.edu.

Come to the meeting. You never know, you might just find out how to use less hay (cha-ching) and put more green not only in your pastures but in your wallet, too.

James Pinsky is the Education and Information Coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104 or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.

Comment Policy

Print This Article

Guest Columns