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Chapter 13 : Range Livestock Production


Grazing Management a. Stocking b. Grazing system c. Drought plan 2. Ranch Capitalization a. Water b. Fence c. Corrals d. Roads e. Other 3. Livestock Management a. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Chapter 13 : Range Livestock Production

Chapter 13 Range Livestock Production
  • 1. Economics of range livestock production
  • a. Product demand
  • b. Prairie versus desert ranches
  • c. Ranch size
  • d. Comparative financial returns
  • e. Cattle price cycles
  • 2. Range Livestock management
  • a. Reproduction
  • b. Crossbreeding
  • c. Animal selection
  • 3. Common use grazing
  • 4. Drought management
  • 5. Poisonous plant problems
  • a. Types of poisonous plants
  • b. Preventing livestock poisoning

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Components of Sound Western Ranching
  • 3. Livestock Management
  • a. Livestock selection
  • b. Breeding program
  • c. Healthcare
  • d. Supplemental feeding
  • e. Poisonous plants
  • 4. Brush Management
  • a. Grazing
  • b. Fire
  • c. Herbicide
  • d. Mechanical
  • e. Biological
  • 1. Grazing Management
  • a. Stocking
  • b. Grazing system
  • c. Drought plan
  • 2. Ranch Capitalization
  • a. Water
  • b. Fence
  • c. Corrals
  • d. Roads
  • e. Other

Components of Sound Western Ranching cont.
  • 5. Government Assistance
  • a. Drought relief
  • b. Technical assistance
  • c. Vegetation management
  • d. Conservation
  • 6. Government Regulations
  • a. Endangered species
  • b. Clean air
  • c. Clean water
  • d. Land use
  • e. Penalties
  • f. Incentives

Components of Sound Western Ranching cont.
  • 7. Product Demand
  • a. Livestock
  • b. Wildlife
  • c. Recreation
  • d. Plants
  • e. Ecosystem services
  • f. Other
  • 8. Monitoring Programs
  • a. Rain fall
  • b. Forage production
  • c. Trend in ecological condition
  • d. Livestock productivity
  • e. Financial returns
  • f. Riparian health
  • g. Soil health
  • h. Wildlife populations
  • i. Grazing use

Components of Sound Western Ranching cont.
  • 9. Risk Management Programs
  • a. Climate
  • b. Biological
  • c. Political
  • d. Financial
  • e. Other
  • 10. Integration and Management.

Types of risk confronting western ranchers
  • 1. Climatic
  • 2. Biological
  • 3. Financial
  • 4. Political

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Desert versus Prairie ranches Large versus
  • Prairie (eastern) ranches are more profitable due
    to lower production costs per animal unit.
  • 1. Lower land requirement per animal unit.
  • 2. Forage is green for a longer period during
    the year.
  • 3. Drought is less of a problem.
  • 4. Intensive land management
  • 5. Less government regulation on private land
    prairie ranches.
  • Large vs small ranchers
  • Larger ranchers are more profitable due to
    economy of scale.
  • (Ranch economics handout)

Drought Management Principles
  • 1. Drought is inevitable. Develop a forage
    reserve for drought (stock at 65-75 of
  • 2. Maintain one quarter of the livestock herd as
    a readily marketable class of livestock.
  • 3. Monitor monthly precipitation across the
  • 4. Sell livestock quickly when drought conditions
    become apparent.
  • 5. Always have a good handle on ranch forage
  • 6. Dont rely on government feed programs.
  • 7. Keep constant check on livestock water

Drought Management Principles cont.
  • 8. Completely de-stock any pasture if stubble
    heights drop below 1 inch on short grasses, 4.5
    inches on mid grasses and 8 inches on tall
  • 9. Restock pastures after they receive one
    growing season of deferment and average or above
    average rainfall.
  • 10. Dont try to feed your way out of drought.
    Try to retain one quarter of grazing capacity in
  • 11. Store silage, hay and other feeds when
    plentiful and inexpensive.
  • 12. Keep livestock well distributed across ranch
    during drought.

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Table 13. Forage Production (lbs/acre) on
Moderately and Conservatively Stocked
Pastures in Drought Compared to 6-years average
on the Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research
  • Drought
    6 year Drought year
    years Average as percent
  • Grazing intensity 1994 1995 1993-1998
    of Average
  • Moderate
  • (40-45 use) 44 194 23
  • Conservative
  • (30-35 use) 89 273 33
  • Source Molinar 1999, Molinar et al, 2002.

Table 12. Forage Production (lbs/acre) on Heavily
and Moderately Stocked Pastures
in Drought Compared to 10-years Average on the
Fort Stanton Experimental Range in New Mexico.
  • Drought 10 years Drought
  • Years Average as
  • Grazing intensity 1974 (1970-1979) of
  • Heavy
  • (50-55 use) 103 607 17
  • Moderate
  • (40-45 use) 235 740 32
  • Source Pieper et al. 1991, Holechek, 1994.

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Common Use Grazing
  • Advantages
  • Complementarity due to differences in forage
    plant and terrain preferences
  • Maintaining a desired balance between forage
  • Providing stability in grazing land ecosystems
  • Providing diversity of income and more uniform
    cash flow
  • Aiding in the control of internal parasites (i.e.
    for sheep when cattle are present)
  • Limitations
  • Increased facility costs, such as fencing,
    watering, and handling facilities.
  • Reduced scale of enterprise resulting in reduced
    technological efficiency
  • Conflicts in labor needs
  • Need for increased management skills and
  • Greater predator problems (adding sheep or goats
    to cattle).

Common Use Grazing cont.
  • Advantages
  • 6. Developing mutually beneficial
    interrelationships between animal species
  • 7. Maximizing yield of animal products through
    greater biological efficiency
  • 8. Sheep utilization of forage affected by cattle
  • Limitations
  • 6. Marketing made more complex
  • 7. Antisocial behavior between animal species in
    limited situations
  • 8. Differential suitability of climates to
    different animal species
  • 9. Required proper stocking ratios between animal

Range Livestock Management Principles
  • 1. Heterosis (hybrid vigor) can substantially
    increase livestock productivity if cross-breds
    are used.
  • 2. Control of breeding is critical.
  • a. High level of nutrition after calving is
  • b. Cow/bull ratio and pasture size must insure
    all cows have the opportunity to get pregnant (1
    bull to 20 cows considered optimal).
  • 3. Non-breeding animals must be identified and
    removed from the herd.
  • 4. Calf crops should be at least 80 and lamb
    crop 100
  • 5. Separate first calf heifers from cows during
    calving first heifers need extra care.

Range Livestock Management Principles cont.
  • 6. Do not overfeed heifers or cows, this causes
    dystocia (calving difficulty).
  • 7. Calving should be prior to forage growth so
    cow and calf can capitalize on the high quality
  • 8. Vaccinate livestock for the diseases in the
  • 9. Do not permit an extended breeding season.
  • Advantages of 65-day breeding season
  • a. Increased weaning weights
  • b. More uniform calves
  • c. Can identify low producing cows

Range Livestock Management Principles cont.
  • 10. Do not overgraze
  • Consequences
  • a. Reduced weights
  • b. Smaller calf crops
  • c. Death losses are increased
  • d. Forage resource is destroyed
  • 11. Supplement minerals that are deficient.

General Rules to Prevent Livestock Poisoning by
  • Prevention is the best cure.
  • 1. Do not misuse the range so as to bring about
    the invasion of new species may be poisonous.
  • 2. Learn to recognize poisonous plants.
  • 3. Avoid areas where poisonous plants are
  • 4. Do not force animals to remain on the range
    after they have utilized the good forage species.

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General Rules to Prevent Livestock Poisoning by
Plants cont.
  • 5. Do not allow animals on the spring range until
    the good forage species have made sufficient
    growth to support them.
  • 6. When animals have been on dry feed, or have
    been deprived of forage they should not be put on
    ranges containing poisonous species until well
  • 7. Use plenty salt lack of it may cause the
    animals to eat plants not normally eaten.
  • 8. Graze with the kind of livestock not poisoned
    by the plant in question.
  • 9. Poisonous plants may be sometimes eradicated
    by grubbing or spraying where economical.

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Basic Information
  • 1. Historically, return on investment for Western
    ranches has been between 1-3.
  • 2. The average 250 animal unit ranch in New
    Mexico is valued between 750,000 and 1,400,000.
  • 3. As ranch size increases, the profitability of
    ranching tends to increase due to economy of
  • 4. The average medium size in ranch in New Mexico
    involves about 250 animal unit and has provided
    the operator with about 26,000 per year in net
    income in 1989-1992 period.

Basic Information cont.
  • 5. Since WWII, real returns from western ranches
    peaked in 1961 and have since gradually trended
    downwards with periodic upturns such as 1978-1979
    and 1988-1992.
  • 6. Generally sheep ranches give higher returns
    than cattle ranches. In recent years yearling
    operations have been more profitable than
    cow/calf operations.
  • 7. Ranches on arid lands in the west are less
    profitable than ranches in the great plains and
    southeastern USA.

Basic Information cont.
  • 8. Percentage calf/lamb crop is the major factor
    influencing the profitability of mother/young
    ranching operations.
  • 9. Compared to other businesses and investments,
    ranches are low in profitability. In recent years
    corporate profits have been around 12, long term
    US government bonds (30 years) 7.5, money market
    accounts 3-4, corporate bonds (AAA) 8-10, junk
    bonds 12-16, and stock market returns (S P)
    500) of 18. In contrast, western ranches have
    returned around 1-2 in arid lands (deserts) and
    3-5 in the Great Plains. Western ranching is
    considered more risky than any of these other

Basic Information cont.
  • 10. Presently the outlook for the 2000s is for
    cattle prices to increase due to rising demand.
    The problem is that ranching costs are
  • 11. Arid land ranches are inefficient for beef
    production compared to more humid areas because
    low, erratic rainfall and rugged terrain require
    more infrastructure per animal unit than in the
    wetter areas. Furthermore, intensive management
    practices are more difficult when animals are
    scattered over large areas.
  • (Ranch economics handout)

Advanced Information
  • 1. Range improvements such as rotation grazing
    systems, brush control and seeding have seldom
    been financially effective on western ranches
    compared to alternative investments (bonds,
    stocks, money market funds, real estate). In many
    cases these range improvements have actually lost
    money for the rancher. Brush control has been a
    particularly poor investment although exceptions
    exist (big sagebrush range) because brush often
    reinvades the area within 5 to 15 years. Recovery
    of investment usually requires 20 to 30 years of
    increased forage benefits.

Advanced Information cont.
  • 2. Financial benefits of grazing systems and
    brush control tend to increase as precipitation
    increases. These investments are most effective
    in areas with over 20 inches of annual
    precipitation and relatively flat terrain.
  • 3. Supplemental feed is the major variable cost
    for western ranches. In New Mexico it varies
    between 30 and 60 per animal unit depending on
    year and range type. Research shows this cost
    should be between 10 and 20/AU on well managed

Advanced Information cont.
  • 4. Based on the research, financial returns are
    much higher on good condition than poor or fair
    condition range. This is particularly true in
    arid areas. The surest way to improve range
    condition and forage production is with a
    conservative stocking rate (35 use of forage).
  • 5. Drought has been one of the biggest factors
    adversely impacting ranchers on western ranges.
    Conservative stocking has proven to be one of the
    very best strategies to minimize the adverse
    impact of drought in ranching monetary returns.

Advanced Information cont.
  • 6. Financially, the most sound strategy for arid
    land ranches is to use a conservative stocking
    rate (35 use of forage), a continuous or simple
    deferred rotation grazing scheme, a carefully
    thought out supplemental feeding program, and
    intensive breeding program and intensive
    replacement heifer management program.
  • 7. Percentage calf crop weaned and sold is the
    major factor regarding cattle ranching
    profitability on western ranches. Stocking rate
    has been the most important factor governing calf
    crop on western ranges.
  • 8. Generally rotation grazing systems have
    reduced calf/lamb crop and weaning weights
    compared to season-long or continuous grazing in
    arid areas. This in turn has reduced monetary