Low Prices May Suggest New Land Uses
January 26, 2016
High pasture rents, risk of drought, and little profit from irrigated crops make irrigated pasture an attractive option this year.
When pasture rent approaches or even exceeds $300 per cow-calf pair for the season, it may be time to look at other options. One attractive option might be to grow your own irrigated pasture, especially when corn prices are below $4 a bushel. Well-managed irrigated pasture can support about 1.5 cow-calf pairs per acre. At current pasture rental rates this could save you over $400 per acre.
Of course, you will gross a whole lot more per acre by continuing to grow irrigated corn, but this doesn't mean you're generating a proportionately higher profit per acre. Cash costs to raise corn are much higher than those for irrigated pasture.
This doesn’t account for other advantages of irrigated pasture, such as the convenience of having so many animals near home, better early spring grass, and improved bull power when breeding in such small areas. Only you can determine what these are worth to you.
Irrigated pastures can be highly productive and profitable, but they will require your best management efforts. If you're considering this change, you may want to review several Nebraska Extension NebGuides with further information on seeding and managing irrigated pastures:
- Perennial Forages for Irrigated Pasture (G1502): Plant traits and selection guide for perennial forages for irrigated pasture in Nebraska, including information on recommended mixtures and species characteristics.
- Fertilizing Grass Pastures and Hayland (G1977): Proper fertilization is an important component of managing pastures and haylands.
- Grazing Management of Irrigated Grass Pastures (G563): Factors and principles of plant growth that influence irrigated pasture production
This year, with $4 per bushel corn, irrigated pastures may provide more of the benefits you need for your overall operation.
Extension Forage Specialist