By: Alan Newport, editor of Drovers/CattleNetwork
A friend called the other day and asked suspiciously what I thought about the confined-cow idea. He feared it could set up a pathway for true vertical integration in the beef industry.
I grant he could be right, but I see some advantages. Since per-cow land costs these days are running $13,000 to $17,000, this may be a viable way to expand a herd and/or bring young people onto an existing ranch. Even if we take my standard that you can at least double your stocking rate with well-managed grazing, that still suggests per-cow costs run $5,000 to $8,500.
Also, considering the energy demands of the modern, oversized and over-milked cow, partial or total confinement can meet these needs more easily — and with timeliness — than can be done on rangeland. At the Eng Foundation symposium on confined-cow production in September, nearly all the speakers with experience said confined cows can be kept with a 40 to 50 percent decrease in feed because they move about less to forage, and the higher quality nutrition allows a more restricted diet — actually limit-feeding — that still keeps the cows and calves very healthy and productive.
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