A new report from ag lender Rabobank shows that confined cow-calf production might be the best way to rebuild the U.S. cow herd, especially considering the declining amount of pastures available. This news release from the company says its report, “Outside In: Confined Cow-Calf Production as a Viable Model for Rebuilding the U.S. Cow Herd Numbers,” found that there’s been a 32 million-acre decline in pasture availability over the last 10 years, making producers explore options requiring less land.
“The U.S. cow herd must grow if the industry is going to preserve existing infrastructure and regain lost market share,” says report author and Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory Group Senior Analyst Don Close. “In order to for that growth to occur, the beef and cattle community must address main expansion constraints: high capital barriers, declining availability of grazable acres, and ageing producers. In many parts of the country, incorporating systems for confined calf production is an important stop to overcoming these constraints.”
Close notes confined cow-calf production is an avenue to enable young producers entry into the industry. It is also a means in which land-locked corn belt row crop producers can expand their revenue stream, allowing young family members to return to the farm.
The report finds that confined production systems present an alternative that replaces high capital requirements with intensified management and labor. The report’s economic evaluation shows that two systems—confined calf production in excess feed yard space and in confinement buildings that are typically built in the Corn Belt—are very competitive compared to conventional production models.
Rabobank goes on to say that the traditional cow-calf grazing model will still be the primary method for American producers, but confined and semi-confined programs do present “a truly viable and valuable option.”