This is a concept that works very well with rotational grazing. In fact some graziers call it the KISS (keep it simple stupid) system. It all involves doing things which don’t cost much money or take much time but which increase your net returns.
This has been one of my greatest challenges. I have always been a gadget person. I would always go for any idea which would cut the time or labor involved and I always fell for the sales pitch that all these gadgets increased my profit by reducing labor or expense. In fact over the years I’ve probably bought enough gadgets to reduce my labor and expense by over 200%, but my expense just went up and I was still working as hard as ever. I think most of us fall into the same trap and we just have to do more to pay for the labor saving devices.
Even after changing to our low cost system I have to watch myself or I spend money for things I don’t need. The first fencing salesman I talked too told me I needed a reel to roll up poly wire on at $40, I bought one. Since them I have been buying extension cord reels at the local hardware for less than $5. Even my first fences had more wires than were needed. I’ve found that after proper training, one wire interior and two wire perimeter fences do quite well for controlling most cattle.
The same goes for the plants we grow for pasture. Many times you can pay four or five times as much for extravagant seeds which don’t produce any more feed than a simple orchard grass - clover pasture. Don’t get me wrong, an additional seed expense of $15 to $20 dollars per acre can easily be recovered if the dry matter yield only increases by a few hundred pounds per year. Many times this doesn’t happen unless we change our management or fertility system, and this increases our cost of production. If were going to be early adopters of these grazing ideas we have to do the research to document our cost savings on each change, otherwise we only know at the end of the year if we have more income but we don’t know where it came from. Sooner or later the research facilities will catch up with us and start doing economic analysis on many of these grazing ideas then we can use their research to fine tune our operations.
It’s a well known fact that our prices for milk, meat or grain haven’t risen much in the last ten years, but services and equipment we purchase to raise these products have gone up dramatically. Getting bigger and thus more efficient only goes so far in spreading the costs over more units of production and we usually have to work harder to earn the same or less return.
This past winter I heard a University economist talk about his prediction for the future of the dairy business in this country. He felt that a confinement dairy to be economically viable needed to milk between 500 and 1000 cows. They would need 60% equity going into the operation. Then they would hire labor for $6 per hour and at the end of the year net $300 per cow. If you don’t compare that to anything it sounds like a good annual profit, but I have talked to many graziers who keep it simple who are netting nearly $1000 per cow on moderate sized farms without the hassle of managing large numbers of employees or cows.
If that mega dairy is the future dairy industry then there is little chance for the young people of this country to ever be anything but an employee on such an operation. I believe with the right opportunity a young person who can open their mind to the new concepts behind rotational grazing and seasonal dairying could be operating on their own within 5 to 10 years after starting in this system Just keep it simple.