Grazing Matchmaker

Online Tool Helps Residue-Seeking Livestock Producers Hook Up with Crop Farmers

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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The Crop Residue Exchange is designed to assist both crop and livestock producers with crop residue needs. (DTN/The Progressive Farmer file photo by Jim Patrico)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Call it Tinder for grazing. A new online tool helps cattle producers seeking feed for their livestock hook up with crop farmers who have fields of crop residue to offer.

Created by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension, the Crop Residue Exchange (http://cropresidueexchange.unl.edu/…) is designed to assist both crop and livestock producers with crop residue needs.

The service works like this: Farmers set up a log-in account and list cropland available for grazing by entering basic information about the type of residue, fencing situation, water availability and dates available as well as contact information. Those with land to graze can even draw out the plot of land using an interactive map. Livestock producers then log into the tool and can search the database for cropland available for grazing with an established radius of a given location.

SURVEY: MORE WANT TO GRAZE

Mary Drewnoski, UNL beef systems specialist, told DTN the exchange came about for several reasons, but the most enlightening moment for her was when UNL Extension received the results of a farmer survey on grazing. For the survey, farmers across the state were asked about their perspectives regarding grazing of corn residue.

In the survey, 63% of crop farmers said they were allowing grazing, while 37% said they were not allowing grazing on their fields. Of those who were not allowing grazing, 40% said they would not allow grazing regardless of the rental rate offered, but the remaining 60% said they would allow grazing.

Of those who would allow grazing but were not currently grazing, the majority (87%) named a price of $15 or less per acre as the fee they would want for grazing, which is in line with current rates. Drewnoski said when the 60% of producers who would allow grazing for a rental fee were asked why their acres were not being grazed, approximately 70% of those respondents indicated that they did not have access to livestock for grazing.

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"When we talked with cattle producers, there were many that would be interested in grazing more corn residue acres but stated they did not have access, so it just seemed to make sense that we needed a way to get these two together," Drewnoski said. "So we talked with farmers and cattlemen, and many were very interested in this idea."

Ultimately, the goal of the Crop Residue Exchange is to assist with development of farmer-cattlemen relationships and increase the use of corn residue for forage, Drewnoski said. This can be done by helping farmers who have corn residue get connected with cattlemen who are looking for winter forage, especially in the eastern part of the state where corn residue is not heavily used.

In addition to connecting crop farmers and cattle producers, the Crop Residue Exchange will also provide education, according to Drewnoski. Information regarding various aspects of residue grazing is linked to already existing educational information such as proper stocking rates and things to consider with rental agreements, she said.

In addition to being a resource for both crop and cattle producers, Drewnoski said she hopes the Crop Residue Exchange will also serve as a way for Extension to gather information on the use of corn residue in the state.

WHAT IS THE GOING RATE?

Drewnoski said a common question that Extension educators receive regarding corn residue grazing is "What is the going rate?" The exchange can provide a source of information to answer this question, she said.

Jay Parsons, UNL farm and ranch management specialist, said overall crop residue grazing in Nebraska will run from $5 per acre up to $33 per acre for corn stalks. The most common rental rate he is seeing in the state is from $10 to $15 per acre.

"I'm guessing most producers know what is being charged in their area, but they are not sure if it is worth the hassle on their part," Parsons said.

When crop producers are considering leasing their acres for crop residue grazing, there are some factors to consider, Parsons said.

One factor that is becoming more important is liability insurance when cattle run on stalks, Parsons said. Some crop producers are requiring the livestock producer to add them to their liability policy so if anything happens with the cows getting out, the crop producer is covered, he said.

The other issues crop producers should consider are water and fencing needs, Parsons said.

In some cases, water hauling can be quite variable depending on how far and how often it has been hauled, he said. In most cases, however, the livestock owners would take care of that if there is not a water source nearby, and thus it would be a consideration in the rental rate they would be willing to pay.

With fencing, most permanent fences are gone now, so crop residues will be grazed using temporary electric fence. It has just become an expected part of what the livestock owner is going to have to figure out, Parsons said.

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

Follow Russ Quinn on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN

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Russ Quinn